February 27, 2021

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Live politics updates: Police officials to testify about Capitol riot at Senate hearing

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WASHINGTON – The current and former leaders of four law enforcement agencies tasked with protecting the U.S. Capitol face questioning from senators Tuesday in their first public testimony about the deadly Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol. 

The hearing before two Senate committees comes as lawmakers investigate the buildup to the riots and the subsequent response by law enforcement. Thousands of supporters of former President Donald Trump marched to the Capitol Jan. 6, overpowered police officers, broke inside and then ransacked the building in a riot that resulted in five deaths. 

The four officials to field questions from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Rules and Administration Committee are acting Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee, former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, former Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger and former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving. 

More:Capitol Police investigating 35 officers for Jan. 6 riot as union denounces ‘witch hunt’

Lawmakers are expected to ask about preparation failures. Officers were overwhelmed by rioters despite intelligence suggesting protests could turn violent. The Capitol Police Union has faulted leadership for insufficient preparation and equipment for officers.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told reporters Monday he was hoping to learn more from the officials about intelligence leading up to the attack, why law enforcement was not prepared, and details on the National Guard deployment.

“Why were they not really fully prepared to deal with what was a very large violent attack on the Capitol?” Peters said. 

In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, supporters of President Donald Trump scale the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Sund, Stenger, and Irving all resigned in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack. The Capitol Police have launched an investigation into their own officers as well, recently saying 35 of their officers were under investigation in relation to the riot, with six suspended without pay, a move their union denounced as a “witch hunt.”  

The group might also seek answers on the delay of the National Guard deployment at the Capitol, which some law enforcement officials have suggested could have helped with their response. Sund has previously said his requests for the National Guard to be placed on standby in the days before the riot were denied. And Contee said in a closed-door briefing with lawmakers Army staff “did not like the optics of boots on the ground at the Capitol.”

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