As debate on security ramps up, Capitol Police push back on IG

Department defends response to discovery of pipe bombs on Jan. 6

A U.S. Capitol Police patrol car drives past the fence perimeter on the east side of the U.S. Capitol before President Joe Biden delivers his address to the joint session of Congress on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. The only visible security upgrade are the new area closed signs on the fence. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
A U.S. Capitol Police patrol car drives past the fence perimeter on the east side of the U.S. Capitol before President Joe Biden delivers his address to the joint session of Congress on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. The only visible security upgrade are the new area closed signs on the fence. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted May 11, 2021 at 4:53pm

As Congress nears a debate about increasing funding for Capitol Police to make the complex more safe, the department is looking to counter a developing narrative that they were disorganized or unprepared during the Jan. 6 attacks.

Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton told a House panel on Monday that three counter-surveillance teams — a total of six officers — responded to reports of pipe bombs on Jan. 6 at the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee and began conducting an investigation, leaving one team of two officers to cover the Capitol complex.

“So in other words, if those pipe bombs were intended to be a diversion, plainly speaking, it worked,” Bolton told the House Administration Committee.

The Capitol Police pushed back against what Bolton said.

“The counter-surveillance teams that responded to the pipe bombs did not respond to investigate. The units responded because pipe bombs are a matter of life and death,” the department said in a statement. “The Counter-Surveillance Unit that responded to the first bomb was responsible for discovering the second pipe bomb. The team did an outstanding job and likely saved lives.”

Bolton did not have an answer for why the Capitol Police’s timeline of the Jan. 6 insurrection that showed officers had monitored a few counter demonstrators but largely let be around 200 members of the far-right extremist Proud Boys group. Bolton called into question the accuracy of the timeline and said he has a lot of questions that he plans to address in a forthcoming report on command and radio traffic.

But the Capitol Police said counter-surveillance teams were following the Proud Boys that day.

“USCP did have counter-surveillance teams in the field, reporting on the Proud Boys. The Intelligence Operations Section also received information regarding the 200 proud boys from MPD,” the department said, referring to the Metropolitan Police Department.“USCP pushed that information out to the intelligence distribution. The Department was on the lookout for any and all potential threats on January 6.”

The department’s response comes as House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said he is hopeful a security supplemental appropriations bill and one to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate Jan. 6 will be ready for the House floor next week.

“That assumes both of them are ready, and I hope they will be,” Hoyer said. 

Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and ranking member John Katko, R-N.Y., are working on a deal to establish the commission focused on the insurrection that sought to disrupt Congress’ certification of the Electoral College victory of Joe Biden, according to Hoyer.