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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

What Was Learned in the Senate Hearing Today about Assault on the Capitol?

             A mob assaulted the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi rushed an impeachment action against President Donald Trump on January 13, accusing him of “inciting insurrection.” A casual reading of Trump’s words shows that he did not incite anything. The Senate began the impeachment trial on February 9, and the Senators acquitted Trump before the week was over.

            Today two Senate committees began oversight hearings about the mob’s actions to question former and current officials about how the rioters breached the building. Fred Lucas at The Heritage Foundation found six highlights from the hearings.

            Highlight #1: The attack on the Capital was a “Coordinated Attack” that was “clearly” “planned in advance.” The assault on the Capitol began while Trump was speaking – 20 minutes before the event ended -- at the rally located on the Ellipse, which is south of the White House.

“These people came specifically with equipment. You’re bringing climbing gear to a demonstration, explosives, chemical spray – you’re coming prepared,” former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned under pressure after the riot, told senators during the hearing.

In his testimony to senators, acting Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said of the attack, “I certainly believe it was coordinated.”

Contee pointed to the “placement of pipe bombs in the area,” among other evidence “adding to what we know in hindsight now as a result of the ongoing investigation of the FBI.

            Highlight #2: There was a “Lack of Intelligence Sharing” among agencies. According to Contee, “The District did not have intelligence pointing to a coordinated assault on the Capitol.” Other officials also testified that they were unaware of any intelligence on an attack.

Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., said lawmakers would conduct a broad investigation, beyond this initial hearing, into what he called the “colossal breakdown” in security that allowed the Capitol to be breached.

“… The attack on Jan. 6 was an extraordinary event that requires exhaustive consideration. The American people deserve answers on why their Capitol was breached.”

            Highlight #3: Law Enforcement Officials Are “Rejecting ‘Complicit’ Charge.” Pelosi appointed retired Army lieutenant general Russel Honoré to lead an investigation into the assault. He said in an MSNBC interview: “I think once this all gets uncovered, it was complicit actions by Capitol Police.” This statement was challenged in the meetings.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., asked: “Were you complicit in this attack on Jan. 6?”

Sund answered first, saying, “Absolutely not, and I think it is disrespectful to myself and members of the Capitol Police Department.” …

“Of course none of you were,” Hawley said. “There is absolutely no evidence to that effect. Mr. Sund, I think your comments are appropriately taken. To allege that any of you were complicit in this violent mob attack on this building is not only extremely disrespectful, it’s really quite shocking. And this person has really no business leading any security review related to the events of Jan. 6.”

            Highlight #4: What Was Said about the “National Guard and ‘Optics’”? Senator Hawley questioned the security officials about “why they determined the National Guard would not be needed.” There was disagreement between Sund and Irving about whether Sund had requested the National Guard. Sund said that he requested them, and Irving saying that he did not. Sund accused Irving of denying the National Guard’s help because of “optics.” One thing became clear, however. It was Irving, along with then-Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger, who called in the National Guard. Irving said that he did not wait to concur with Senate and House leaders.

            Highlight #5: There Was “Lack of Training” for Such a Situation. Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) was puzzled about the statement of “lack of training to deal with such a situation.” Sund, the former Capitol Police chief, responded:

We do train for people trying to get into the building. We don’t train for an insurrection of thousands of people. Our officers do have less-than-lethal capability that they do carry with them. With hindsight being what it is, I think there needs to be additional training, additional equipment to consider [for] this type of attack in the future.

            Highlight #6: “Questions About ‘Provocateurs’.” “Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) read aloud from, and entered into the Senate record, an article by J. Michael Waller, a senior analyst at the Center for Security Policy, a national security think tank.”

In it, Walker writes that “provocateurs” infiltrated a pro-Trump march with peaceful protesters and whipped up a normally law-abiding crowd to turn against law enforcement. Walker was an eyewitness to the Trump rally Jan. 6 before it turned into a riot.

“I would really recommend everyone on the committee read this account,” Johnson said. …

“The House [impeachment] managers made a big deal that this was predictable, this was foreseeable, which I don’t believe. Do you believe the breach of the Capitol, do you believe that was foreseeable and predictable?” Johnson asked the former Capitol Police chief.

Sund said neither he nor leaders of other federal agencies were aware of such a threat, and referred to the D.C. police chief’s earlier comment.

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