House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the resignation of the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, joining a chorus of lawmakers criticizing the agency’s failure to thwart an assault by a pro-Trump mob on Wednesday.
The ability of the rioters to access the building, including her office, represented “a failure of leadership at the top of the Capitol Police,” she said. The House sergeant at arms had submitted his resignation, she said, calling for U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund to do the same.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the attack, which briefly interrupted the the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, reflected “shocking failures in the Capitol’s security posture” and vowed an investigation.
Sund defended his agency, which reports to Congress, in a statement prior to Pelosi’s call for him to quit. He said its actions were “heroic” and that it had “a robust plan” to meet demonstrations surrounding the ratification of results from the fall election that President Donald Trump lost.
Rioters, many bearing Trump garb, breached barricades set up by the over-matched police force and swarmed the Capitol on Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers. One apparent protester was shot and killed by police inside the Capitol.
“These mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior,” Sund said in the department’s first statement since the violence coursed through the building. Sund said his officers “were heroic given the situation they faced.”
The agency didn’t respond to a request for comment following Pelosi’s call for Sund’s resignation.
More than 50 Capitol police and Metropolitan Police Department officers were injured during the incident and several members of the Capitol police force have been hospitalized with serious injuries, Sund said.
But that hasn’t blunted criticism of the agency, which has more than 2,000 officers and a budget of more than $500 million.
“Yesterday they could have blown the building up, they could have killed us all, they could have destroyed the government,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters. “They should have been challenged, warning shots should have been fired. Lethal force should have been used.”
Lawmakers who craft the budget for the Capitol Police force — House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro and House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Ryan — in a joint statement said the turmoil “raises serious questions about what law enforcement did and what they should have done differently.”
“It is obvious that there was a severe systemic failure in securing the building’s perimeter and in the response once the building was breached,” DeLauro and Ryan said.
Representative Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the House committee which has oversight over the force, vowed an investigation, citing “grave security concerns.”
Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat in line to replace McConnell as majority leader after a pair of elections in Georgia this week gave Democrats a majority, called for the Senate’s sergeant at arms to be fired.
Also on Thursday, Washington D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee III said in a news conference that “There was no intelligence that suggested there would be a breach of the U.S. Capitol.”
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who played a role in authorizing National Guard deployments, said that officials “had no wildest imagination that you could end up breaching the Capitol grounds.”
However, violent rhetoric by Trump supporters had been increasing on social media in the days leading up to the attack. On pro-Trump forums such as thedonald.win, supporters couched their pronouncements in patriotic terms, calling for a “1776 moment” at Wednesday’s protests, or more bluntly, a “reign of terror.”
The Justice Department said it was investigating and anticipated further charges against participants. The department said it had been “working throughout the evening” with law enforcement agencies to gather evidence against them.
“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that those responsible for this attack on our government and the rule of law face the full consequences of their actions under the law,” Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said in a statement.
— With assistance by Daniel Flatley, and Erik Wasson
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