Top Republicans in the House of Representatives sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday demanding answers regarding the security decisions surrounding the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, particularly, her part in the decision to deny the Capitol Police Chief’s request for National Guard support, and her refusal to comply with requests to turn over materials relevant to the decision.
In their letter, House Administration Committee Ranking Member Rodney Davis, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan, House Oversight Committee Ranking Member James Comer, and House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes noted that “five weeks have passed since the January 6th attack on the Capitol building, and many important questions about your responsibility for the security of the Capitol remain unanswered.”
The Republicans are demanding answers to the following questions:
- When then-Chief Sund made a request for national guard support on January 4th, why was that request denied?
- Did Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving get permission or instruction from your staff on January 4th prior to denying Chief Sund’s request for the national guard?
- What conversations and what guidance did you and your staff give the Sergeant at Arms leading up to January 6th specific to the security posture of the campus?
- What conversations with the SAA and Capitol Police did you have during the attack on the Capitol and what response did you give security officials on January 6th when Chief Sund requested National Guard support that required your approval?
- Why are your House Officers refusing to comply with preservation and production requests to turn over materials relevant to the events surrounding the 6th?
Davis, Jordan, Comer and Nunes pointed out that former Capitol Police Chief Steve Sund had requested the assistance of the National Guard on Jan 4, but former Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving said he was concerned about “the optics” and didn’t feel the “intelligence supported it.”
The congressmen accused Pelosi of terminating both men without consulting Republicans.
In the wake of the attack, there were many calls from members, on both sides of the aisle, to conduct a full bipartisan and bicameral review. Republicans have introduced a bill to establish a structure for this review, identify failures, and ensure the Capitol is never violently breached again. Instead of working together, you decided unilaterally to fire then-Sergeant at Arms (SAA) Paul Irving, demand the resignation of then-Chief of the Capitol Police (Chief) Steve Sund, and appointed retired General Russel Honoré to lead a security review. These decisions were made in a partisan manner without any consultation of House Republicans and therefore raise questions about the political motivations of your decisions.
“As you are aware, the Speaker of the House is not only the leader of the majority party, but also has enormous institutional responsibilities,” they wrote. “The Speaker is responsible for all operational decisions made within the House.”
It has been widely reported and confirmed by multiple sources that when Chief Sund requested the National Guard be activated ahead of the January 6th Joint Session of Congress, the response from the SAA, acting on your behalf, was that the “optics” of having the National Guard on-site were not good and the intelligence didn’t support the move. The request was not approved. Furthermore, on January 6th, in the middle of the on-going attack of the Capitol, Chief Sund again notified the SAA of his request for approval to authorize the National Guard. It took over an hour for his request to be approved because the SAA had to run the request up the chain of command, which undoubtedly included you and your designees.
Notably, the congressmen suggested that Pelosi had lied about the matter during a press conference the next day.
On January 7th, you held a press conference in which you stated, in part, that you were calling on Chief Sund to resign because he “hasn’t called us since this happened.” That claim is refuted by Chief Sund who in a letter to you, dated February 1, 2021, detailed two occasions that he briefed you on the situation on the Capitol campus—the first occurring at 5:36 p.m. and the second at 6:25 p.m., both on January 6th.
Sund, according to Fox News, claimed in a letter to Pelosi earlier this month that he briefed former Vice President Pence on the security posture during the first call at 5:36 p.m., and that Pelosi had joined the call.
Sund detailed another call at “approximately 6:25 p.m.,” which he said was a conference call with congressional; leaders, including Pelosi, now-Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, now-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rep. James Clyburn.
In their letter to Pelosi, Davis, Jordan, Comer and Nunes expressed concern that the House’s “independent security review” of the event would not be free of political motivations since retired General Russel Honoré, the man conducting the review, was appointed by Pelosi without any consultation with the minority.
The congressmen have good reason to doubt Honoré’s objectivity.
Honoré, known for leading relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, viciously decried President Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria in Sept. of 2017, characterizing Trump’s perceived mishandling of the disaster as a biproduct of his alleged racism.
“The president has shown again, you don’t give a damn about poor people, you don’t give a damn about people of color and the SOB that rides around in Air Force One is denying services needed by the people of Puerto Rico,” the retired general said on CNN.
Davis, Jordan, Comer and Nunes went on to say they were “very concerned by the obstruction and inability to procure and preserve information from your House Officers when requested.”
Such information is necessary to properly conduct oversight on the January 6th events. Preservation and production requests were sent to the SAA and the House Chief Administrative Officer, among other legislative agencies, requesting that such relevant information concerning the attack on the Capitol, including correspondence, video footage, audio recordings, and other records, be preserved and produced to the relevant committees. In multiple cases, your appointees, acting on your behalf, have denied requests to produce this information.
The response we received was: “We regret to inform you that given the scope of the information requested and the concerns implicated by the nature of the request… we are unable to comply with the request at this time.” Even more troubling is despite your House Officers refusal to comply with the request we have recently learned that some of the same material we requested was provided to the House Judiciary Committee on a partisan basis. This is unacceptable. Madam Speaker, that direction could only have come from you.
The Republicans called Pelosi’s actions since the Capitol riot “hyperbolic,” and a “misdirection and misappropriation of House resources.”
Lastly, your hyperbolic focus on fabricated internal security concerns has taken critical resources away from the real threat, which is from outside the U.S. Capitol. Your decision to install magnetometers around the House Chamber is yet another example of this misdirection and misappropriation of House resources, which could be better used to protect members, staff, and official visitors from real, confirmed threats. Tellingly, Madam Speaker, you have failed to comply with this requirement yourself. End this political charade, and work with us to protect the Capitol and those who work here every day.
Pelosi’s office responded to the letter on Monday, snapping that the security of the Capitol and democracy are “not the priorities of these ranking members,” while claiming that “the Committees of Jurisdiction were briefed in advance of January 6 about security preparedness.”
Pelosi deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill told Fox News that the Republicans’ letter was a “transparently partisan attempt to lay blame on the Speaker, who was a target of assassination during the insurrection fueled by the lies of House Republicans, the Ranking Members are trying to absolve former Police Chief Sund, former Sergeant at Arms Stenger and the leader who appointed him, Mitch McConnell, of any responsibility.”
“We look forward to these Ranking Members asking these same questions of former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,” Hammill said. “As the target of an assassination attempt, the Speaker knows all too well the importance of security at the Capitol and is focused on getting to the bottom of all issues facing the Capitol Complex and the events that led up to the insurrection.”
Hammill added: “Clearly, these Republican Ranking Members do not share this priority.”
Pelosi meanwhile reportedly plans to give the Congressional Gold Medal to the U.S. Capitol Police officers and other law enforcement personnel who protected the Capitol during the riot.
“They are martyrs for our democracy, those who lost their lives,” Pelosi said during her weekly press conference on Thursday.
Senate Republicans last week warned that if witnesses were called in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Trump, they would include Pelosi as a witness to discuss security preparations before the Capitol siege.