Mob fallout: Pelosi calls for Capitol Police chief to be fired; House SAA to resign

Members of Congress praise rank and file but say probe is necessary

Sergeant at Arms of the United States House of Representatives Paul Irving, left, speaks with Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund as they arrive for the House Democratic’ Caucus meeting at the Capitol on March 10, 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sergeant at Arms of the United States House of Representatives Paul Irving, left, speaks with Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund as they arrive for the House Democratic’ Caucus meeting at the Capitol on March 10, 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 7, 2021 at 2:35pm

Top Capitol Hill law enforcement figures on Thursday started feeling repercussions for their failure to contain the Capitol against a pro-Trump mob that occupied the complex and prevented the counting of Electoral College votes.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday called for the firing of Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and said House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving would be resigning.

“I am calling for the resignation of the chief of the Capitol Police, Mr. Sund, and I have received notice from Mr. Irving that he will be submitting his resignation,” the California Democrat said at a news conference. Sund sent out a release on Thursday defending his department in the wake of the disruption of government, but Pelosi was not impressed. “Mr. Sund, he hasn’t even called us since this happened."

Wednesday’s events resulted in four deaths and extensive damage to the Capitol complex and exposed a clear failure of the Capitol Police to execute its mission, which is to protect and secure Congress.

It took more than 20 hours after the House and Senate chamber were first locked down as rioters overtook the Capitol before Capitol Police released their first statement on the violent and destructive siege.

“The USCP had a robust plan established to address anticipated First Amendment activities. But make no mistake — these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior,” Sund said in a statement.

Several other top lawmakers have called for an investigation into how the violent mob was able to gain entry to the Capitol.

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The House Appropriations Committee has launched an investigation of the department and its response to the insurrection. Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Legislative Branch Subcommittee Chairman Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said in a statement that “it is obvious that there was a severe systemic failure in securing the building’s perimeter and in the response once the building was breached.”

Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan has vented frustration at the top brass of the Capitol Police but praised rank-and-file officers who were at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, saying they “did everything they could.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

At a midday news conference, Ryan said someone will be held accountable for the failures.

“Well, you can be assured that somebody is going to be held responsible for this,” Ryan said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday said there must be an investigation into the failures that allowed the overrunning of the Capitol. “Yesterday represented a massive failure of institutions, protocols, and planning that are supposed to protect the first branch of our federal government. A painstaking investigation and thorough review must now take place and significant changes must follow,” McConnell said in a statement.

Who is held responsible remains to be seen. Sund, as Capitol Police chief, reports to the Capitol Police Board, which comprises House SAA Irving, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger and J. Brett Blanton, the Architect of the Capitol.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, who will become majority leader after Georgia’s two new Democratic senators-elect and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are sworn in, said Stenger would not be in his job for much longer.

“If Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Stenger hasn’t vacated the position by then, I will fire him as soon as Democrats have a majority in the Senate,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. It’s not unusual for the SAA to be replaced when the Senate majority turns over, but such a strong statement shows how deeply Wednesday’s events are having an effect.

The Capitol Police fiscal 2021 budget is $515.5 million, an increase of roughly $51.2 million over the previous year. The department has 1,879 sworn officers as of September 2020.

“I’m livid about the whole thing because I had conversations with the sergeant-at-arms and the chief of the Capitol Police and assurances that every precaution was being taken. That we had enough man power. That we were going to keep people completely away from the Capitol ... next thing you know, you turn on the TV and they’re swinging from the Capitol building with flags and putting a lot of people’s lives in danger,” said Ryan.

While venting his frustration with the brass, Ryan praised the officers on the ground. “The rank and file did everything they could,” he said.

The leaders of the House Administration Committee — Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and ranking member Rodney Davis, R-Ill., whose panel also oversees Capitol Police — are both calling for a review of what happened.

Sund’s first public statement on the matter acknowledged that a Capitol Police officer shot and killed Ashli Babbitt inside the Capitol.

The officer who fired their weapon was not identified. That officer has had their police powers suspended and is on administrative leave, pending a joint investigation into the shooting by Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department.

“As protesters were forcing their way toward the House Chamber where Members of Congress were sheltering in place, a sworn USCP employee discharged their service weapon, striking an adult female,” Sund said. “Medical assistance was rendered immediately, and the female was transported to the hospital where she later succumbed to her injuries.”

Sund outlined the simultaneous response to the discovery of pipe bombs at the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters and a “suspicious vehicle” on the Capitol grounds.

“The USCP Hazardous Materials Response Team determined that both devices were, in fact, hazardous and could cause great harm to public safety. The devices were disabled and turned over to the FBI for further investigation and analysis,” Sund said in a statement.

The vehicle’s owner and 13 other suspects were arrested on charges of “unlawful entry of the U.S. Capitol,” he said.

Sund thanked the more than 18 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that converged on the Capitol. He said more than 50 Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department officers were injured during the insurrection. Several Capitol Police officers are in the hospital with serious injuries, Sund said.

“The actions of the USCP officers were heroic given the situation they faced, and I continue to have tremendous respect in the professionalism and dedication of the women and men of the United States Capitol Police,” Sund said.

Interim Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert J. Contee III said at a Thursday news conference that his department arrested 68 people on Wednesday evening into the early morning hours of Thursday. Forty-one of the arrests occurred on “U.S. Capitol grounds and to my knowledge, only one of the arrestees is from the District of Columbia.”

Contee said the situation was out of control when officers arrived and there was a lot of “valiant fighting” on the part of MPD officers. “I have one officer who’s still in the hospital right now. He was snatched into a crowd, he was beaten, he was kicked, he was tased several times. So, yeah, they fought, they fought very hard yesterday,” he said.

He added that his officers were still going after the rioters.

“As we speak, we have members of the Metropolitan Police Department that are scouring the area hotels, businesses, etc., trying to identify some of these individuals that still may be taking up residence in our city,” Contee said.

Lindsey McPherson, Chris Cioffi and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.