U.S. Senate begins review of security failings ahead of deadly Capitol riot

FILE PHOTO: Barbed wire surrounds the U.S. Capitol in Washington
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Susan Cornwell
·2 min read
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By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. Senate panels reviewing security failings in the run-up to the deadly assault on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump are due on Tuesday to interview the top security officials involved in the planning and response.

Steven Sund, the former chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, will testify along with the former sergeants-at-arms of the House of Representatives and Senate, Paul Irving and Michael Stenger. All three men resigned in the wake of the Jan. 6 violence that left five people dead.

Also appearing will be Robert Contee, the acting police chief in Washington, D.C., whose forces helped the Capitol Police control the mob and eventually clear the Capitol so that lawmakers could return to certify President Joe Biden's election victory.

Senators in the Homeland Security Committee and the Committee on Rules and Administration want to find out where the breakdowns in planning and response occurred that allowed the violence to unfold in and around the citadel of American democracy, endangering the lives of, among others, Trump's vice president, Mike Pence.

In media interviews, Sund has blamed the former House and Senate sergeants-at-arms for not green-lighting his request for back-up from the National Guard ahead of Jan. 6. Once the rioting started, it took hours to get permission for the troops, which ultimately had to come from the Pentagon, Sund said.

Sund also says intelligence agencies did not pass on anything ahead of time indicating an orchestrated attack on the Capitol might happen.

The Washington Post has reported that the Capitol Police's own intelligence unit warned on Jan. 3 that "Congress itself" could be the target of Trump supporters summoned by the then-president to fight his loss in the Nov. 3 election.

The FBI also says it warned law enforcement agencies on Jan. 5 that extremists were preparing to commit violence, although the warning was based largely on unconfirmed intelligence such as social media postings.

Some Department of Homeland Security officials were also concerned by social media postings, but an official familiar with intelligence reporting said Trump appointees at the department blocked efforts to circulate that intelligence widely around the government.

Scores of police were assaulted in the melee, with over 140 Capitol Police and some 65 metropolitan police injured.

More than 200 people have been charged so far for their roles in the riot, including some with ties to far-right fringe groups such as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Scott Malone and Sonya Hepinstall)