WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) participated in the first oversight hearing on the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol as a member of both the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Rules and Administration Committee. Witnesses included Former Chief of Police Steven A. Sund, Former Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper Michael C. Stenger, Sergeant at Arms Paul D. Irving, and Acting Chief of Police for Washington, D.C. Robert J. Contee III.
During the joint hearing that examined the security failures surrounding the attack, Padilla pushed Former Chief of Police Sund for answers regarding the drastic difference in use of force and police presence for the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests last summer versus the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Padilla highlighted the stark difference in numbers of arrests, clearly demonstrating that Black Lives Matter protesters were met with more force than the insurrectionists on January 6th.
- PADILLA: One thing that was not lost on me and many people that I’ve talked to is the difference in both police presence and response on January 6th, compared to events from last summer when peaceful protesters were demonstrating in the nation’s Capitol in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
- PADILLA: 250 individuals who were involved in the Capitol insurrection of January 6th have been arrested. More will likely be arrested in the coming weeks and months, but only a small number, about 52 of these individuals were arrested on January 6th. By contrast, during the largely peaceful protest of last summer, 427 people were arrested. On June 1st alone, 289 people were arrested.
- PADILLA: So question, Mr. Sund, can you tell us exactly how the Capitol Police preparations for January 6th differed from preparations for the protests from last summer?
Full Transcript of Padilla’s Questioning:
PADILLA: Thank you, Madam Chair. There’s been a lot of questions – I’ve been popping in and out from multiple committees – but I understand that there’s been a lot of questions already about intelligence, what was known, most assessed, what was shared, etc. and differing opinions. I’ll try not to be too repetitive. First, a quick question for Chief Sund and the two Sergeant at Arms. I imagine, like most people you saw most, if not all, of the House impeachment managers presentations before the United States Senate. As they sort of laid out the case, put the impeachment question aside, we know how that was resolved, but in terms of how January 6th, didn’t just happen, but the lead up to January 6th, is there anything from that presentation that you would disagree with?
SUND: So to just make sure I understand, the video I watched and all the information, the video that was portrayed, is all accurate video. As far as the, you know, any of the other commentary associated with the video, I can’t say I watched every single bit of it, but I can tell you the video, a lot of that video was video from the United States Capitol Police, and it was all accurate.
PADILLA: Okay, thank you. Mr. Stenger, Mr. Irving, same question.
STENGER: The video I saw certainly reflected what I could see from my window on the day of January 6th.
IRVING: And from my perspective, Senator, I have not diagnosed the, why the attack occurred at the time, we left all information to the intelligence agencies that we had at the time, and I would say now, to leave it to the after action investigations to make determinations.
PADILLA: Okay. Question for Chief Sund specifically, now there’s an intelligence division within the department, correct?
SUND: Yes, sir.
PADILLA: Okay. And now, having read your letter to Speaker Pelosi, you make reference to events on both November 14th, as well as December 12th, that you had sort of comparable intelligence in terms of risk assessments, threat assessments, in the event of November 14th and December 12th, not leading into anything near what happened on January 6th, is that my correct interpretation of your letter?
SUND: Yes, that is the correct interpretation of the letter, both the assessments indicated that we were going to have various militia groups and extremists in attendance, in addition to the fact that as Chief Contee had testified to earlier, weapons were recovered during both those events.
PADILLA: Okay. And so, to the best of your recollection, in the lead up to January 6th, since it was comparable assessment, comparable intelligence, roughly, you therefore proceeded with comparable preparation and posture.
SUND: Yeah, that is absolutely correct. We proceeded with the posture of seeing it could have instances of violence. We knew it was going to be focused on the Capitol. We knew that there was going to be members of Proud Boys and Antifa participating. And like I said before, not Capitol Police, not Metropolitan Police, not any of our federal agencies, had any information we’re going to be facing an armed insurrection of thousands of people.
PADILLA: Now, if we take our experience with terrorism globally and look at case studies, both incidents that have been prevented and those that were successfully executed against the United States, is it plausible, and I know hindsight’s 20/20, is it plausible that the November 14th, December 12th incidents may well have been trial runs? The very extremist organizations you’ve referenced, involved with the organizing and participation of November 14th, December 12th, to gain counterintelligence on how you and your partner agencies would be planning and preparing for such incidents?
SUND: Well, as you rightly point out, when you look at some of the terrorist attacks that have occurred, there has been pre-planning, there has been pre-surveillance, pre-collection of intelligence on the security features. I don’t know if the, November and December were two instances of that, but I would suspect with the fact that we’re finding this was a coordinated attack, I wouldn’t doubt there was pre-surveillance.
PADILLA: So, we don’t if they were, we don’t know if they weren’t, that’s my point.
SUND: Correct, correct.
PADILLA: And I know the intelligence folks will be here at a subsequent hearing, but we’re all in this together. In your letter and in your testimony earlier today, you bluntly say the intelligence community missed this.
SUND: That is correct, sir. That’s the way I feel.
PADILLA: Now who was commander in chief on December 6th?
SUND: When you say commander in chief–
PADILLA: Who was the President of the United States–
SUND: –Donald Trump, sir.
PADILLA: –overseeing the intelligence community that missed this. Repeat your answer.
SUND: For the entire 18 agencies that represent the intelligence community?
SUND: Yes, sir. They would be commander in chief.
PADILLA: And who was that again?
SUND: President Donald Trump.
PADILLA: Okay. Let me ask a couple questions on a different topic. I think it’s obvious to many across the country, I was one of three Senators who was not in chambers on January 6th. I had the benefit, if you will, of watching the events occur in real time both inside the Capitol and outside the Capitol on television. One thing that was not lost on me and many people that I’ve talked to is the difference in both police presence and response on January 6th, compared to events from last summer when peaceful protesters were demonstrating in the nation’s Capitol in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Last summer they were met with significant force. A couple of data points to date, some 250 individuals who were involved in the Capitol insurrection of January 6th have been arrested. More will likely be arrested in the coming weeks and months, but only a small number about 52 of these individuals were arrested on January 6th. By contrast, during the largely peaceful protest of last summer, 427 people were arrested. On June 1st alone, 289 people were arrested. Similarly, some 300 protesters were arrested during the Kavanaugh hearings in 2018. So question, Mr. Sund, can you tell us exactly how the Capitol Police preparations for January 6th differed from preparations for the protests from last summer? And if you can specifically address if they were the same or different use of force guidelines in place on January 6th, compared to the protests of last summer, or any criteria for making arrests on January 6th versus the protest from last summer?
KLOBUCHAR: Okay, and if you could do that in about a minute. Thank you, Senator.
SUND: Yes, ma’am. I will do that very concisely.
SUND: So, I want to look at it from planning and preparations. We plan for every demonstration the exact same way. Doesn’t matter the message of the person, doesn’t matter the demographics of the grievance involved in the demonstration. We do it the exact same way. We develop our information, we develop our intel and we base a response plan on that. So, let’s transition to preparations. I will tell you, we handled 15 major demonstrations involving Black Lives Matters groups, you know, following the death of George Floyd over the summer. We had a total of 6 arrests. 6 arrests, no use of less lethal capabilities, no use of lethal force capabilities. The events, everything that we put into place for January 6th far exceeded any planning that we did for any events in 2020. With the full activation of the department, the size of the perimeter that we expanded, the deployment of additional protective equipment, the deployment of less lethal and the application of less lethal far exceeded anything, any other event that I can recollect on the nation’s Capitol. So, I’ll just leave it at that. We were provided to prepare for much more.