Politics

Ex-police chief says his request for National Guard was denied 2 days before Capitol riot

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Key Points
  • The former chief of the U.S. Capitol Police is set to tell Congress that he asked the sergeants-at-arms of the Senate and House on Jan. 4 to request the presence of the National Guard at a joint session of Congress two days later for protection.
  • But both sergeants-at-arms effectively denied that request by then-Chief Steven Sund, which came two days before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump, according to a copy of testimony that Sund is scheduled to give Tuesday.
  • Then-House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving "stated that he was concerned about the 'optics' of having National Guard present and didn't feel that the intelligence supported it," Sund said in his prepared testimony.
Former US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testifies before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs & Senate Rules and Administration joint hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, February 23, 2021, to examine the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
Andrew Harnik | AFP | Getty Images

The former chief of the U.S. Capitol Police is set to tell Congress that he asked the sergeants-at-arms of the Senate and House on Jan. 4 to request the presence of the National Guard at a joint session of Congress two days later for protection.

But both officials effectively denied that request by then-Chief Steven Sund, which came two days before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump, according to a copy of testimony that Sund is scheduled to give at a Senate hearing Tuesday.

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Then-House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving "stated that he was concerned about the 'optics' of having National Guard present and didn't feel that the intelligence supported it," Sund said in his prepared testimony.

"He referred me to the Senate Sergeant at Arms [Michael Stenger] ...to get his thoughts on the request," Sund wrote.

"I then spoke to Mr. Stenger and again requested the National Guard. Instead of approving the use of the National Guard, however, Mr. Stenger suggested I ask them how quickly we could get support if needed and to 'lean forward' in case we had to request assistance on January 6."

Sund resigned in mid-January on the heels of the riot, which left five people dead, among them Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, and disrupted for hours the confirmation of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory for the presidency.

Stenger does not directly address Sund's claim in his own brief prepared testimony, which does not discuss in detail the events leading up to the riot.

Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger walks the halls of the U.S. Capitol outside the Senate Chamber during a break in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial January 22, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Stenger resigned Jan. 7, after Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who is now majority leader, said he would fire him as soon as Democrats took majority control of the Senate.

But Irving, in his own prepared testimony says that he and other Capitol security officials expected the planned Jan. 6 march and demonstration in Washington and at the Capitol to be a "First Amendment" event.

"Intelligence reported that some groups encouraged protesters to come armed, that violence was a possibility as it had been in November and December, and that Congress would be the focus," said Irving, who also resigned shortly after the riot.

But, he added, "The intelligence was not that there would be a coordinated assault on the Capitol, nor was that contemplated in any of the inter-agency discussions that I attended in the days before the attack."

Irving said that on Jan. 4, he spoke with Sund and Stenger about a National Guard offer to incorporate 125 unarmed troops "into the security plan to work traffic duty near the Capitol, with the expectation that those troops would free up Capitol Police officers to be at the Capitol."

Irving also said that, "Certain media reports have stated that 'optics' determined my judgement about using those National Guard troops. That is categorically false.

"'Optics' as portrayed in the media did not determine our security posture; safety was always paramount when evaluating security for January 6," Irving said.

"We did discuss whether the intelligence warranted having troops at the Capitol, and our collective judgment at that time was no—the intelligence did not warrant that. The intelligence did warrant the plan that had been prepared by Chief Sund."

House Sergeant at Arms Paul D. Irving, right, and Chief Administrative Officer of the House Phil Kiko, testify during the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee hearing titled "House Officers FY2021 Budget, in the Capitol on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Irving said in the course of his Jan. 4 meeting with the other two security chiefs, "we agreed that Chief Sund would ask that the National Guard have the 125 troops standing by as an asset in reserve."

"Had I thought for an instant that the intelligence called for the presence of 125 unarmed National Guard troops to work traffic duty ... I would not have hesitated to do everything necessary to ensure their presence," Irving said.

"Moreover, had Chief Sund, Senate Sergeant at Arms Stenger, or any of the law enforcement leaders involved in the planning concluded that the intelligence called for the National Guard or any other resource on January 6 (or that the security plan fell short in any respect whatsoever), I would not have hesitated to ensure the National Guard's presence or to make any other changes necessary to ensure the security and safety of the Capitol."

He added, "Our ultimate need for the National Guard was starkly different than unarmed troops for traffic duty."

Irving also said that on Jan. 5, Sund gave a briefing, where the then-police chief "stressed there would be 'all hands on deck' and described the law enforcement and contingent National Guard assets that would be on call."

" Like Chief Sund, based on the intelligence and the extensive deployment of law enforcement resources, I erroneously believed that we were prepared," Irving said.

"As we now know, the security plan was not sufficient for the unprecedented attack that unfolded on January 6."