Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said late Thursday he would resign, hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for him to be fired for the extraordinary security failure that saw Trump supporters violently invade the Capitol building, leading to the police shooting at least one insurrectionist.
“There was a failure at the top of the Capitol Police, and I think Mr. [Steven] Sund—he hasn’t even called us,” Pelosi said at a press conference on Thursday.
By nightfall, a Capitol Police spokesperson said Sund would be leaving, effective Jan. 16, according to NBC.
Sund came under attack as well from the Capitol Police union, which charged him with failing to prepare for the insurrection—and drew a pointed contrast with the “coordinated response” that took place in June for Black Lives Matter protests.
“Our officers did their jobs. Our leadership did not,” said union president Gus Papathanasiou, who welcomed and pledged cooperation with inevitable congressional investigations into the breakdown.
“This lack of planning led to the greatest breach of the U.S. Capitol since the War of 1812. This is a failure of leadership at the very top,” Papathanasiou said.
Pelosi also said that Paul D. Irving, the House sergeant at arms, will resign. That represented the first act of accountability for the security failure, centering around the senior law-enforcement official responsible for securing the House of Representatives.
Her Senate counterpart, soon-to-be Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, signaled that the Senate Sergeant at Arms, Michael Stenger, needed to leave his position as well. “If Senate Sergeant at Arms Stenger hasn’t vacated his position by then, I will fire him as soon as Democrats have a majority in the Senate,” Schumer said Thursday.
Stenger’s office did not immediately answer whether he will resign.
But investigations into the causes of the spectacular collapse in Capitol security on Wednesday have only begun. The House committee on administration, which oversees the Capitol Police, has started an inquiry alongside the Republican and Democratic leadership, chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) announced.
The Capitol Police, who answer to a board that includes the House and Senate sergeants at arms, have yet to address the security breakdown. Armed insurrectionists were able to occupy the Capitol building for hours, ransacking offices and causing lockdowns and evacuations of legislators, to intimidate lawmakers and prevent them from certifying the electoral-college victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
While some imagery showed demonstrators overwhelming the Capitol Police, in others officers took selfies with the insurrectionists and made few arrests. It remains unclear what if any preparatory measures the Sergeant-at-Arms or the Capitol Police took ahead of a demonstration President Trump called for and promised would be “wild.”
The Capitol Police did not answer The Daily Beast’s questions. An earlier statement from Sund on Thursday, the first from the Capitol Police, claimed without elaboration that they 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, who issued the statement before Pelosi called on him to resign, pledged that “a thorough review” was underway.
Both Lofgren and the Capitol Police union disputed Sund’s claim of a robust plan. Lofgren told reporters late on Thursday that Sund and Irving lied to her in a briefing on Tuesday about the planning effort.
“We questioned the line of command with the National Guard. We were told this was all in place and there was no doubt they'd be able to keep us secure in the Capitol. What they told me about the National Guard was not true,” Lofgren said. It took the D.C. National Guard until late on Wednesday to mobilize.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, pointedly noted the “stark and damning” contrast in “the Federal police response to violent gun-wielding domestic terrorists storming the Capitol yesterday [to] the treatment of migrant families at the border and peaceful Black Lives Matters protestors.” Thompson said his committee’s priority in the new Congress would be to examine far-right domestic terrorism.
As well, while Lofgren praised the performance of many Capitol Police officers, she referenced accounts that other officers “took selfies with these seditionists or let them in, [and] we need to investigate that.”
Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general, has similarly yet to explain what preparatory steps, if any, were made by the Justice Department. Hours after the insurrectionists had already breached the Capitol around 1 p.m., Rosen called in additional federal law enforcement–“hundreds,” he said–to supplement the Capitol Police. Yet it took until around the 6 p.m. curfew in D.C. for the Capitol Building to be completely cleared of the insurrectionists.
At around 3 p.m. Wednesday, Rosen requested U.S. Marshals Director Donald Washington deploy deputy marshals to support the Capitol Police, according to Marshals spokesperson Jim Stossel. Some of the 90 deputy marshals who deployed were already nearby, but it took until 5 p.m. for all of them to muster. The FBI dispatched agents to help with the removal of rioters as well but did not specify how many of its agents, sent from its Washington Field Office, were on scene.
But more questions than answers remained about the circumstances leading to the storming of the Capitol.
Representatives from the Justice Department did not address whether they had an advance plan to bolster security in advance of a Trumpist rally widely telegraphed to be violent and billed as an effort to force legislators not to ratify Biden’s victory.
In the days leading up to the siege, right-wing social media sites like The Donald barraged protest goers with messages exhorting them to “arrest” members of Congress for the fictitious crime of recognizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
“Arrest the oath breakers on the spot. Pedes should have cuffs and straps for both antifa/BLM and oath breakers,” one commenter on The Donald wrote, using the alt-right slang for members of the movement. “Flexcuffs are dirt cheap online. Put a big bundle on your belt like [law enforcement officers] do,” another wrote.
In contrast with the June Black Lives Matter protests, when federal law enforcement from various agencies–and displaying varying levels of identification–fanned across the city, it appeared the Justice Department did not prepare. An FBI official said the late-afternoon request for aid came from the Capitol Police, rather than the Justice Department. The Capitol Police, for their part, had set up knee-high gate barriers outside the Capitol complex that insurrectionists easily kicked over, leaving police on the Capitol steps–few of whom were seen wielding riot shields or other equipment familiar from the summer’s crackdowns against left-wing demonstrators–as the final, flimsy line of defense.
FBI Director Christopher Wray urged the public to help the bureau identify insurrectionists. “Our agents and analysts have been hard at work through the night gathering evidence, sharing intelligence, and working with federal prosecutors to bring charges,” Wray said Thursday.
Late on Thursday, Wray received a letter from Thompson and five other House Democratic committee chairmen requesting an immediate briefing on FBI plans to investigate the instigators of what they called a “deadly terrorist attack.” Specifically, they pointed to Trump’s repeated incitement of the mob, as well as his attorney Rudy Giuliani’s pre-march demand for “trial by combat.”
“It is imperative that the FBI leverage all available assets and resources to ensure that the perpetrators of this domestic terrorist attack and those who incited and conspired with them are brought to justice,” wrote the chairpersons, who referred to Trump, Giuliani and their supports as a “domestic terrorist group.”
The Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, outlined a plan to bolster security between now and Biden’s inauguration. By the weekend, McCarthy said at a press conference with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, some 6,200 National Guardsmen will arrive in the city from D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New York, and New Jersey. The enormous security contingent outnumbers a heavy Army brigade.
In addition to the insurrectionist shot by Capitol Police, Ashli Babbitt, who later died of her wounds, D.C. police identified three others on the Capitol grounds who died of what they described as medical emergencies: 50-year old Benjamin Phillips of Ringtown, PA; 55-year old Kevin Greeson of Athens, AL; and 34-year-old Rosanne Boyland of Kennesaw, GA. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee did not know if the three were part of the demonstrations.
Charles Ramsey, the former chief of Washington’s Metropolitan Police who stepped down in 2006, told The Daily Beast that the Capitol Police had ample time and warning to prepare for the riots.
"This was not a secret. This was not a flash mob that popped up spontaneously. This was something that had advanced notice, and they should've had far more personnel," Ramsey said. "There was more than enough time to plan and have enough people there to be able to keep people from breaching the Capitol itself."
-- Sam Brodey and Rachel Olding contributed reporting