Two top officials who are responsible for safety at the Capitol are also expected to step down following Wednesday’s chaos.
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the chief of the Capitol Police to step down on Thursday after President Donald Trump’s supporters were able to breach the Capitol the day before.
Pelosi joined a growing chorus of lawmakers from both parties who have criticized the law enforcement preparation and response to Wednesday’s riot, which forced members of Congress to evacuate to a secure location for hours. Both the House and Senate announced earlier Thursday that they will open an investigation into the Capitol Police and other agencies’ mishandling of the attempted coup, which saw waves of insurrectionists push past too small numbers of law enforcement officers and take over the Capitol complex. More than 50 Capitol Police officers were injured in the fray, according to an agency spokesperson, and one woman was shot and killed.
Pelosi said that even by Thursday afternoon she still had not heard from Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund about the agency’s failures and that he must resign.
“There was a failure of leadership at the top… Mr. Sund, he hasn’t even called us,” she told reporters.
Members of Congress have criticized the Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies for not preparing for the riots, which followed a rally announced by Trump in December to coincide with the day Congress would certify his election loss. The president’s most extreme supporters have been posting publicly for weeks about their intentions to storm the Capitol, bring guns into Washington, and generally cause chaos and violence.
“It goes beyond the Capitol Police,” Pelosi said Thursday. “It goes to the FBI. What was the shortcoming in their intelligence that they provided? It goes to the Department of Defense. How long did it take for them to respond or anticipate the need of the National Guard?”
Pelosi also announced that House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, who is the chief law enforcement officer for the House and whose job it is to protect its members, plans to submit his resignation. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also told Politico Thursday that if Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger has not resigned by the time Democrats take control of the Senate on Jan. 20, he will fire him.
Capitol Police officers appeared to be woefully understaffed and were overwhelmed by crowds of Trump’s supporters. Videos show the mob knocking over gates guarded by just a handful of officers to get on to the Capitol grounds, where the crowds continued to push police back, and finally made their way inside. There’s also video of at least one Capitol Police officer taking a selfie with the rioters inside the Capitol.
On Thursday morning, Sund released a statement in which he said that Capitol Police officers had “responded valiantly when faced with thousands of individuals involved in violent riotous actions” and noted that as the insurrectionists pushed through into the Capitol, his officers were also responding to two pipe bombs and a suspicious vehicle.
Lawmakers have also questioned why it took so long for the National Guard and other federal law enforcement to arrive and backup the Capitol Police and DC’s Metropolitan Police Department. The Defense Department initially denied DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request for the National Guard to deploy.
Pelosi thanked and praised the individual Capitol Police officers who acted “so bravely” to protect members and staff on Wednesday. “But there was a failure of leadership at the top of the Capitol Police,” she said.