Drama Ensues Over Acting Capitol Police Chief’s Absence From January 6 Hearing

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 21: The hat of acting U.S. Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman sits on the table before an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on April 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by ... WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 21: The hat of acting U.S. Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman sits on the table before an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on April 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images) MORE LESS
June 15, 2021 10:37 a.m.

The ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee slammed the acting Capitol police chief’s last-minute decision not to attend a Tuesday hearing on January 6, calling her excuse “pathetic.” 

“Acting Chief Pittman’s excuse for not showing up is pathetic: she claims she must watch another hearing where the Capitol Police Inspector General is testifying in case she has to respond in some way to what’s said at that hearing,” ranking member James Comer (R-KY) said in a statement. “Acting Chief Pittman is declining to testify to avoid answering the hard questions.”

Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton will be testifying at the same time as the Oversight hearing, 2 p.m. ET, before the House Administration Committee about his newest “flash report” on the insurrection response.

Comer also had harsh words for Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), accusing her of dragging her feet in inviting Pittman in the first place, and for not compelling her testimony because it doesn’t fit Democrats’ “narrative.” 

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Capitol police dismissed Comer’s attacks, saying that Pittman was only a “last-minute addition” to the hearing.

“That would explain why USCP’s invitation was received less than one week before the proposed hearing date with no prior notice or coordination,” the department told TPM in a statement. “The Acting Chief, however, has agreed to testify at another time and is working with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to select a date.”

A Democratic committee aide characterized Maloney to TPM as “very disappointed” about Pittman’s decision, but confirmed that Pittman has committed to testifying before the committee in the “near future.” 

The hearing, on unanswered questions from the Capitol insurrection, features some key witnesses including FBI Director Christopher Wray and top Army officials who were involved in behind the scenes decisions about preparing for January 6. 

One of them, Director of Army staff Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, has admitted that he may have expressed concern about the “optics” of sending more troops to the area around the Capitol after first strenuously denying that he ever made such a comment. The other, commanding general Charles Flynn — brother of former national security advisor-turned-QAnon celebrity Michael Flynn — has been revealed to have been in the room for some key calls. 

The disparate committee investigations have taken on more importance after Senate Republicans sank the independent January 6 commission, and Democrats have hesitated to move forward unilaterally. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who could set up a select committee with the House alone, is reportedly huddling with some key committee chairs Tuesday to decide how to proceed. 

While some prominent Democrats are warming to the idea of a select committee, many still bemoan Republicans’ obstinance.

“I don’t understand how the Republicans can refuse to investigate the first armed insurrection in our nation’s capital,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told TPM. “Everyone should have an interest in that.”

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