US Senate hears testimony on Capitol riot: 'These criminals came prepared for war' – live
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Senate hears witness testimony from law enforcement officers in what’s likely to be a contentious hearing
The former USCP chief Steven Sund and the former House sergeant at arms Paul Irving offered conflicting accounts of when National Guard assistance was first requested.
According to Sund, he called Irving at 1:09 pm on January 6 to tell him that National Guard troops were urgently needed at the Capitol.
But Irving claimed that Sund’s request did not come until after 2 pm. The exact timing is crucial, given that Vice-President Mike Pence was escorted out of the Senate chamber at approximately 2:14 pm, just minutes before the rioters reached the room.
Senator Rob Portman, the top Republican on the Senate homeland security committee, said the panel would request the officials’ phone records to clear up the discrepancy.
An AstraZeneca executive told a House subcommittee that he believes his company could receive emergency authorization to distribute 300 million Covid-19 vaccine doses by early April. This week, drug regulators are expected to consider authorizing a one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.
These vaccines would be in addition to the more than 600 million doses (enough to vaccinate 300 million people) that the US government has already purchased from Moderna and Pfizer. These are the only two vaccines currently authorized in the US.
“It appears by mid-summer we may have a surplus of vaccines,” said Representative Morgan Griffith, a Republican representative from Virginia, at a House subcommittee hearing on vaccine availability.
“By July, we may have enough that we have a surplus in the US, because there only about 260 million people are vaccine eligible,” in the US, said Griffith. Griffith asked whether surplus doses in the US could be donated to other countries.
“I truly hope and believe there will be a surplus if everyone is available,” said Dr. Ruud Dobber, an executive with AstraZeneca. “There’s a huge need” in low- and middle-income countries, said Dobber.
Robert Contee, the acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, recounted a call that occurred on January 6 with Steven Sund, then the US Capitol Police chief, and Pentagon officials.
Contee said Sund was “literally pleading” with defense department leaders to deploy National Guard troops to the Capitol.
The MPD chief recalled that the Pentagon officials did not formally decline the request, but there was “not an immediate yes”.
“I was just stunned,” Contee said. “I have officers who are out there literally fighting for their lives.”
A subcommittee of the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce heard from executives of Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers Tuesday morning.
The committee members said the hearing was part of an effort to more quickly vaccinate Americans. One day prior, the US marked the death of more than 500,000 Americans from the Covid-19 pandemic.
One of the most notable appearances at the committee was from Dr. Richard Nettles, vice president of medical affairs at Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen. The company’s single-dose vaccine is being considered for authorization by drug regulators this week.
“We believe that our single-dose vaccine will be a critical tool for fighting this global pandemic,” said Nettles. If authorized, Janssen’s vaccine would be the only single-dose vaccine available in the US. Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses.
Janssen’s vaccine would also be significantly easier for medical personnel to handle. It only requires storage at common refrigeration temperatures, rather than the sub-zero temperatures required for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
“Assuming necessary regulatory approvals, we are ready to begin shipping it immediately,” said Nettles. He said the company expects to deliver enough doses to vaccinate “more than 20 million Americans” by March.
An advisory committee of the US Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to recommend approval of the vaccine Friday. While the agency will ultimately decide whether to authorize the vaccine on an emergency basis, it often takes the recommendations of its advisory panels.
“We must vaccinate the majority of the population,” said Representative Frank Pallone, Democratic chairman of the committee from New Jersey. “Unfortunately, the initial vaccine rollout under the Trump administration was marred by poor planning.”
The former chief of the US Capitol Police, Steven Sund, said he did not see an FBI report warning about potential right-wing violence at the Capitol before the insurrection occurred.
Sund said the FBI report made it to the USCP headquarters on January 5, but it did not get into the hands of agency leaders before the violence on January 6.
The Washington Post reported on the existence of the report last month:
Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate rules committee, asked former USCP chief Steven Sund whether he believed there were issues at the Pentagon that resulted in the delayed deployment of the National Guard on January 6.
Sund said he could not speak to specific issues at the Pentagon, but he added, “I was certainly surprised at the delays that I was hearing and seeing.”
Pentagon leaders are expected to testify at a separate Senate hearing on the Capitol insurrection next week.
Paul Irving, the former House sergeant at arms, echoed other law enforcement officials in saying that they thought they had adequately prepared for the pro-Trump rally on January 6.
“Based on the intelligence, we all believed that the plan met the threat, and we were prepared,” Irving said. “We now know we had the wrong plan.”
Irving also pushed back against claims from the US Capitol Police chief, Steven Sund, who said the House sergeant at arms expressed “optics” concerns bout deploying National Guard troops at the Capitol in the days leading up to the attack.
Irving said media reports had mischaracterized his concerns, and “optics” did not play a role in his decisions on how to keep the Capitol safe.
Michael Stenger, the former Senate sergeant at arms, said law enforcement leaders in Washington always need to be prepared for the possibility of civil disobedience.
“The events of January 6th went beyond disobedience,” Stenger said. “This was a violent, coordinated attack where the loss of life could have been much worse.”
Stenger also resigned from his post after the Capitol insurrection.
Steven Sund, the former chief of the US Capitol Police, said his officers were outnumbered by the insurrectionists, who deployed dangerous weapons against law enforcement on January 6.
“These criminals came prepared for war,” Sund said.
Sund announced his resignation from the USCP the day after the Capitol insurrection, amid widespread criticism of his handling of the attack.
Robert Contee, the acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, offered an hour-by-hour timeline of how his officers responded to the Capitol insurrection.
The MPD chief said his officers “immediately” responded when the US Capitol Police requested assistance.
Contee added he was “surprised” by the reluctance from the department of the army to deploy the National Guard to respond to the Capitol attack after the building was breached.
USCP Captain Carneysha Mendoza noted that reports have indicated the Capitol attack lasted for about three hours, but Mendoza said her Fitbit informed her she was in the exercise zone for four hours and nine minutes while responding to the insurrection.
The captain described January 6 as “by far the worst of the worst” of all the days she has worked for the Capitol Police.
“We could have had ten times the amount of people working with us, and I still believe the battle would have been just as devastating,” Mendoza told the two Senate committees holding today’s hearing.
Captain Carneysha Mendoza of the US Capitol Police testified to the Senate committees about her experiences on January 6.
Mendoza said the USCP has anticipated that the January 6 rally, which culminated in the attack on the Capitol, would be similar to the pro-Trump march in Washington on November 14.
The captain was spending time with her son on the afternoon of January 6, when a colleague called to tell her that “things were bad, and I needed to respond in”.
By the time Mendoza responded, there were six active scenes around the Capitol, including the response to a reported explosive at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
Mendoza said she saw “countless rioters” banging on the doors of the Capitol when she arrived, and the insurrectionists deployed dangerous weapons against law enforcement officers.
“I received chemical burns to my face that still have not healed to this day,” Mendoza said.
Senator Rob Portman, the top Republican on the Senate homeland security, noted that three law enforcement officers have died since the Capitol insurrection.
One Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, died as a result of his injuries from the insurrection. Another Capitol Police officer and a Metropolitan Police Department officer have died by suicide since the January 6 attack.
“We will never forget the service and sacrifice” of those officers, Portman said in his opening remarks.
Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, the chairwoman of the Senate rules committee, noted the chamber will be holding additional hearings on the Capitol insurrection.
“This is certainly not the last hearing we will have on this attack,” Klobuchar said.
The Minnesota senator added that the Senate would be hearing testimony from the FBI, the department of homeland security and the Pentagon next week.
The Senate homeland security committee and the Senate rules committee is now holding the joint hearing on the security failures that caused the Capitol insurrection.
Several law enforcement leaders -- former Capitol Police chief Steven Sund, acting Metropolitan Police Department chief Robert Contee, former House sergeant at arms Paul Irving and former Senate sergeant at arms Michael Stenger -- will testify at the hearing.
Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, the chairwoman of the Senate rules committee, opened the hearing by saying she wanted the proceedings to be as “constructive as possible” so that Congress could learn valuable lessons from the failures on January 6.
“We want to make sure that nothing like this happens every again,” Klobuchar said.
The blog will have more updates and analysis from the hearing as it unfolds, so stay tuned.
Former Republican Senator David Perdue has announced that he will not run for the Senate in Georgia next year.
“After much prayer and reflection, Bonnie and I have decided that we will not enter the race for the United States Senate in Georgia in 2022. This is a personal decision, not a political one,” Perdue said in a statement to supporters.
Perdue had said earlier this month that he was considering running against Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, who just won his seat but will be up for reelection next year because he’s serving out the remainder of Johnny Isakson’s term.
Perdue served in the Senate for one term, but he lost his own runoff race to Democrat Jon Ossoff last month.
In his statement, Perdue reiterated his belief that Ossoff and Warnock, the first African American from Georgia to serve in the Senate, do not truly represent the state.
“As we saw in my race in November, Georgia is not a blue state,” Perdue said. “These two current liberal US senators do not represent the values of a majority of Georgians.”
Warnock’s campaign will likely celebrate the news that Perdue, someone with very high name recognition in the state, is getting out of the race.