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Live Coverage of House Hearing on January 6th Capitol Insurrection; Opening statement from Acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett; Questioning by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 25, 2021 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00]

TIMOTHY BLODGETT, ACTING HOUSE SERGEANT AT ARMS: And I want to acknowledge the sacrifices of Officer Liebengood and Smith and their families. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten.

And I finally want to thank the National Guard, who have come from near and far to keep our City on a Hill safe. They have left their families amidst a pandemic to work in uncertain environment and their presence makes us safer.

As I stated in my previous briefing to the Appropriations Committee, the intelligence surrounding January 6th was problematic. Intelligence requires finding needles in a haystack. On January 6th, there was a failure to either gather, synthesize or disseminate intelligence and there were indications that the intelligence was muddled or contradictory.

For example, the January 3rd intelligence assessment from the Capitol Police has been touted to include information that makes it clear that January 6th would become violent. However, the document also states that the protestors' rallies were expected to be similar to the previous Million MAGA March rallies in November and December of 2020, which drew tens of thousands of individuals.

As we know now, the events of January 6th were not like the previous marches or any other rallies that we've had on Capitol grounds. The intelligence provided to the Capitol Police and other law enforcement did not anticipate a coordinated attack.

Warnings should not be qualified or hidden. Bad information, conflicting information or missing information leads to poor decisions. In fact, when the Capitol Police presented this assessment to the sergeant at arms, they simultaneously briefed on the plan of action for January 6th. And one would think that the plan was developed taking into account the intelligence that they were seeing at the time.

One would also expect the warnings to be reflected in all subsequent intelligence reports. The Office of the Sergeant at Arms received daily intelligence reports from the Capitol Police following the initial assessments referenced on the 3rd. On January 4th, 5t and 6th, the Capitol Police listed demonstrations and categorized the probability of civil disobedience or arrest as remote, highly improbable or probable for each of those days and for every single demonstration.

The characterization of the threat posed by these protests only reinforced the notion and thinking that they were similar to the two previous demonstrations, and that not -- and not the violent insurrection that we experienced.

The Office of the Sergeant at Arms is a consumer of intelligence products. We do not independently acquire or analyze intelligence. We are dependent on the Capitol Police and the intelligence communities to provide timely, accurate and succinct intelligence to help guide our decisions.

And it pains me to say, but the intelligence missteps cascaded into inadequate preparation, which placed the health and lives of frontline officers at risk. While frontline officers did everything they could that day, the Capitol Police was prepared for a First Amendment event, but not adequately prepared for the events of January 6th.

For example, former Chief Sund noted in his letter to congressional leadership that he had expedited the delivery of approximately 104 helmets to officers. It was a good decision to expedite the delivery of the helmets, but it also raises questions as to why the officers did not have the helmets on hand.

I support any efforts we can to acquire all gear for our officers to keep them safe, and to be able to keep the gear on hand that expressed (ph) the support to the Capitol Police Board.

Proper planning before an event will provide the needed support to the officers on the line, and help ensure that the event does not turn into a crisis. We must also prepare for contingencies. The failure to prepare for contingencies can result in greater difficulty in execution.

Security examinations are currently under way to make sure that we are prepared for the next January 6th. Lieutenant General Honore and his task force have been working to not only examine the security postures on the Hill, but also the security of members traveling as well as in their districts.

My office has worked in coordination with General Honore and his team to support this critical tasking. This could prove to be valuable input in how we better align the Office of the Sergeant at Arms to provide security services to members.

In the aftermath of January 6th, I know the Office of the Sergeant at Arms must provide more to members and staff to keep them safe. These better services will come with an accompanying cost. I have committed to carefully stewarding the funds that the subcommittee provides.

Funding is an important aspect, but just as important, if not more so, is the right organizational structure. A new look and perspective will help inform my own proposals the (ph) subcommittee will see. I also support necessary infrastructure improvements, support the changes to the Capitol Police will propose to its FTE structures, equipment upgrades, and more importantly the investment in its officers.

The Capitol Police and the Office of the Sergeant at Arms will evolve to better secure Congress. Thank you for the opportunity to testify, and I welcome your questions.

[10:35:00]

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): Thank you, Chief (ph) Pittman (ph), Chief (ph) Blodgett, appreciate it.

Chief Pittman, let me start with you. First, let me say thank you to you for -- the lines of communication have improved dramatically over the past weeks, and I want to just say thank you to you and your team, Chief Pittman, for making sure you're staying in contact with the committee and the Congress.

I've got a couple questions. So you were talking about increasing the size of the dignitary protection, hosting dignitary protection agents, extending coverage of the investigations division. So when you said you increased the size of dignitary protection, how many people were increased there? How many law enforcement people were increased?

YOGANANDA PITTMAN, ACTING U.S. CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF: Yes, sir. Thank you. So we went from four-man protection details, and increased that to six-man protection details.

RYAN: OK, so that's -- I mean, that's not a significant increase at all when you're talking about, you know, what we went through.

How about some of the other things you mentioned? So you embedded (ph) an analyst, deploying countersurveillance agents. So how many countersurveillance agents did you deploy in the morning of the 6th?

PITTMAN: So we deployed all of our countersurveillance agents that we have available to us. We also increased our open-source operations, if you will, to go from a 16-hour day to -- we separated our manpower to ensure that we had open-source operations around the clock.

So all of our PSB operators, if you will -- which includes dignitary protection, the investigations division as well as intelligence -- were operating on a 24/7 platform.

RYAN: I understand that. And my main point is that this was not in any way a significant increase in the amount of law enforcement that were out there. Moving a detail from four to six, even if you did that multiple times, is not any significant increase.

And I guess the question I have is that if -- if you felt like -- and everybody felt like this was adequate, why was Chief Sund trying to press the sergeant at arms for more help?

PITTMAN: So let me just be clear. As it relates to dignitary protection, that is just a small portion of U.S. Capitol Police, so there's a limited number of dignitary protection agents that are specially trained in that area. So increasing from a four-person team to a six-person team essentially is all of the dignitary protection agents that U.S. Capitol Police has available to them, so --

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: I --

PITTMAN: -- was -- so going from that four-person team to six is every person that we have.

As it relates to the operational side of the House, that's where the bulk of the agency is employed by the Uniformed Services Bureau, so that's where the increase came primarily from as it relates to forming up those civil disturbance units.

So prior to that January 3rd assessment, the operational plan required for four platoons to be activated on for the January 6th event. Uniformed operations increased that platoon size to maximize its strength to seven platoons. That is essentially every available officer that we have to form up our CDU units.

That's 276 officers approximately, with 40-person platoons each. Four of those platoons -- excuse me, three of those platoons comprise of hard (ph) platoons, those are the officers that you see in the hard turtle gear, and they have extra, if you will, less-than-lethal options available to them as well as tactical gear, sir.

RYAN: OK. I appreciate that, but my point is that clearly Chief Sund didn't think that was enough because he was going to the sergeant at arms, Mr. Irving, and saying, hey, we need more help. And so he knew. Did you feel that same way?

PITTMAN: Yes, sir. So I have an accurate count of the request that Chief Sund made to lean forward, as it relates to the National Guard, and I think that's what you're referring to. My team, since January 6th, actively pulled all of the cell phone records from Chief Sund and they show the following.

[10:40:07]

On January 6th, Chief Sund first reached out for National Guard support to the House sergeant at arms at 12:58 p.m. He then spoke to the Senate sergeant at arms to make the same request for the National Guard at 1:05 p.m. And he repeated his request to the House sergeant at arms at 1:28 p.m., speaking again with them at 1:34, 1:39, and 1:45.

Chief Sund spoke to both sergeant at arms to request National Guard support --

RYAN: Now Chief -- Chief --

PITTMAN: Yes, sir.

RYAN: -- I don't mean to interrupt you, but we're limited on time here a little bit.

PITTMAN: Yes, sir.

RYAN: I'm talking about prior to January 6th. My main point here is that we appreciate that you increased dignitary protection and the platoons and all the rest. That's still a limited number. I think it's important that the committee and the Congress knows that that's a limited -- a very limited number compared to what the threat was and what we think the threat assessment is.

And my question to you is, Chief Sund clearly was worried and he called Mr. Irving prior to the 6th --

PITTMAN: Yes, sir.

RYAN: -- and said, hey, we need more help. Mr. Irving said no, go ask the National Guard to lean in. And, quite frankly, I don't even know what "lean in" means. If that's some kind of term that I -- I don't know. But what does lean in mean? It means, you know, shut up and don't ask me for any more help is how I take that.

And my question is -- and we've got a lot of questions here, but my question is, were you in agreement with -- because you're now the acting chief, and part of this enterprise here that we're into is about moving forward. At that time, were you in agreement with Chief Sund that you needed more support from -- primarily from the National Guard?

PITTMAN: Yes, sir.

RYAN: OK, thank you.

My time is up, Mr. -- and I just want the committee to know, like yesterday, we're going to take a little bit of liberties with the time to make sure that these questions get answered. We have a smaller committee that allows us to maybe do some of that. So with that, I'm going to yield to Ms. Herrera Beutler.

REP. JAIME HERRERA BEUTLER (R-WA): Our sergeant -- Acting Sergeant at Arms Blodgett, and then if we could -- and then maybe (ph) scale back. You know, when I (ph) talk about communications failures, I'm not necessarily talking about like the tweets and the texts that came to members while this was happening.

What you and I discussed on the phone and what I think is really important is, is I was standing next to officers, both sergeant at arms and Capitol Police officers as the insurrection was happening on the House floor, getting to the House floor.

It was very clear that their headpieces, like, the communications pieces, they were getting no actual real communication. They were getting no leadership, they were getting no direction, they had -- there was no coordination, and you could see the fear in their eyes, like they literally -- the brave men and women who were just kind of left out on their own to defend, did the best they could with what they had. You know, there's a video on YouTube where the woman who was shot,

there's a time, you know, with different armed forces and different forces coming in from different angles, and it was very clear that the person who shot didn't know that there was a tactical team coming up the stairs. And they all have earpieces in.

So clearly -- so when I talk about communications failures, I'm literally talking about the leadership, no one owning the frequency and giving direction. And that's the thing I want to know. I want to know if you're fixing that.

I mean, I -- it's great that you guys send out text messages when there's, like, closures and things, and that's helpful.

But the big communications failure on my -- from my vantage point, and when I talk to other members, is, I've talked to Representative (INAUDIBLE) who was on the floor, helping barricade the door with those officers who had their firearms drawn. And he said he could hear the shouting and the chaos in the earpieces of the officers who were trying to do the defense, so they were on their own. Are you fixing that?

And please be brief because I have a couple more questions.

Acting sergeant at arms, are you there?

BLODGETT: Apologize, I was on mute, I have to remember to unmute.

Yes, that's something we need to fix, we need to fix it immediately. I believe the chief acknowledged in her statement -- and I don't want to speak for the acting chief, but -- that communication needs to be enhanced, drives either out of the command center or the incident command post, wherever that is set up in terms of that.

[10:45:12]

In terms of the communications --

(CROSSTALK)

HERRERA BEUTLER: So --

BLODGETT: -- my staff --

HERRERA BEUTLER: OK.

BLODGETT: -- the sergeant at arms, we don't control the Capitol Police radios. While we have the radios and can hear what is or is not going on, we do not interject during a crisis. We communicate with our staff via cell phone, text message. And we were in close contact.

The situation where -- you discussed, where Officer (INAUDIBLE) door (ph) when Ms. Babbitt was shot, it was our sergeant at arms employee who rendered the aid to her at that site.

HERRERA BEUTLER: Can I -- can I jump in there? BLODGETT: Sure.

HERRERA BEUTLER: So you guys are in charge, though, of the security on the House floor or are you just there to make sure that we take our coats off when we're on-camera?

BLODGETT: We are there to enforce the rules of the House to work in conjunction with the Capitol Police to make sure that it's safe. We had staff on the floor and in the galleries as well.

HERRERA BEUTLER: So can I ask -- so talking about what happened on the floor, when the Senate was evacuated -- and maybe this will be a Chief Pittman question -- when the Senate was evacuated, it was several minutes -- and I don't have the timeline in front of me -- before the House was evacuated.

Why -- why did -- why were we locked in and left on the House floor when there were known assailants in the building and the Senate was being evacuated? Did we not have a plan for evacuation?

BLODGETT: I'm sorry. Yes, we had -- the Office of the Sergeant at Arms put together a plan for evacuating the House floor. The tactical decision to evacuate would be left to the Capitol Police because, at the Command Center, they can see what's going on throughout the camps. We don't have eyes on that.

HERRERA BEUTLER: OK, let me switch over then to Chief Pittman.

Chief Pittman, can you speak to the lack of communication to your officers on their radios, and can you also speak to the reason that there was a decent time delay between when the Senate was evacuated and the House was evacuated?

PITTMAN: Yes, ma'am.

So as it relates to communications, U.S. Capitol Police has practiced routine drills, if you will, for the incident command system since the September 11th incident. On January 6th, our incident command protocols were not adhered to as they should have.

Basically --

(CROSSTALK)

HERRERA BEUTLER: Why? Yes, tell me --

PITTMAN: Yes, ma'am. Within an incident command structure, you have operational order, if you will, and it designates who is in charge of what from your incident command structure on the ground as well as a lot of your leadership folks to include myself and several other -- the other deputy chiefs are posted within the Command Center.

So you actually have a thousand-foot-view, if you will, and then a boots-on-the-ground view. Those boots-on-the-ground view, the persons in charge of our Civil Disturbance Unit as well as those operational commanders that are in charge of the Capitol, are responsible for that implementation of that incident command system.

So when there's a breakdown, you look for those commanders with boots on the ground to provide that instruction. That did not happen, primarily because those operational commanders at the time were so overwhelmed, they started to participate and assist the officers with boots on the ground versus providing that guidance and direction, if you will.

HERRERA BEUTLER: Can I ask, so were -- are you talking about the officers who were -- when you say boots on the ground, the guys who are -- and gals who are literally defending us against the attackers, are you saying they were responsible for the communications breakdown amongst themselves?

PITTMAN: No, ma'am.

HERRERA BEUTLER: So I want to know why yourself and the other leaders did not maintain or regain control of the comms system because you had a bird's eye view advantage.

PITTMAN: Yes, so the expectation is not that those officers would be in charge of the communication, those commanders would be in charge, that were directly responsible, that those officers reported to. Because they have the tactical advantage and strategic lens, if you will, on -- with those officers on the ground.

[10:50:00]

HERRERA BEUTLER: Are you saying those commanders then somehow -- and this is a honest question -- so the commanders failed to regain control of the comms systems and direct the officers who were on the frontlines?

PITTMAN: I think it's a multi-tiered failure, if you will --

(CROSSTALK)

HERRERA BEUTLER: Can I -- can I really quickly just read --

PITTMAN: Yes.

HERRERA BEUTLER: -- this is, I think, is really important. "The Capitol Police Union issued an overwhelming no-confidence vote for the force's top leaders, including Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman" -- yourself -- "and half a dozen other agency leaders. Pittman drew a 92 percent no-confidence vote with 657 of the 1050 union members participating in the vote."

The vote is symbolic, obviously, it's not actionable. But of note, roughly half of the U.S. Capitol Police sworn officers belong to the union.

So I -- I am frustrated that what I'm not hearing is, you know, hey, I was sitting there watching this with a bird's eye view and I tried to -- like, some -- I'm not -- I'm hearing a lot of process and a lot of, like, almost explaining why there's a problem versus hearing how you're going to make sure that there is a Command Center who speaks into the earpieces of the officers and provides direction and leadership.

That part of the problem there was chaos was because each and every one of these officers, boots on the ground, commander or not, had to make a decision with no information. Like, there was no incoming help as far as they knew, they had no idea what you guys were doing.

I mean, I -- my hat is off to these brave men and women, they saved our lives. And I'm frustrated that I'm not hearing this is how we're fixing that right now, this is what we're doing. And that's what I expect.

And I know, Mr. Chairman, my time is up. I'll wait for our next round, so yield back.

RYAN: Yes, thank you, Ms. Herrera Beutler.

Just quickly as a quick follow-up before we go to Ms. DeLauro, in line with what Ms. Herrera Beutler was just saying, can you give us an explanation, like, about the preparation for January 6th, and was there any special training for the officers to have them prepared for this?

PITTMAN: Yes, sir. So a couple points of clarification. Explaining the incident command structure was just basically to detail what the system was supposed to do. The executive team here has taken a number of proactive steps to ensure that incident command protocols are adhered to in the future as it relates to the command staff that are giving directions in the Command Center. That was forthcoming, I myself directed the Capitol lockdown on the day in question.

With that said, there are many more improvements to be made. As it relates to the vote of no confidence, the numbers there are not totally accurate. Thirty-six percent of our sworn population, less than half of the available officers that could have voted, said that they vote no confidence for the Capitol Police leadership.

With that being said, I think that one vote is one vote too many. February 11th, on the day of that vote, marked one month and three days since I was sworn in as the acting chief. Since then, my team and I have been working around the clock and the entire department has been working around the clock, and I think that we've made some very important changes as well as improvements.

We're working on the communications to improve that. We've streamlined a number of items, to include the Joint Emergency Notification Messaging System. We've streamlined communications between U.S. Capitol Police and our law enforcement partners. We've also streamlined communications between the upper management and how that information is delivered to the rank and file.

In addition to that, we've increased our wellness resources and the delivery of vaccines to all of our employees.

Obviously, with that vote, we acknowledge that there's more work to be done. I know that because I talk to the officers. I've been here for 20 years and I've grown up in this agency. Many of those officers are not just my colleagues, those are my friends and their personal wellbeing is personal to me.

As it relates to CDU training, all of our officers that are coming out of the training academy receive 40 hours of training as it relates to CDU. In addition to that, our officers that have specialized training -- what we refer to as the hard gear or turtle gear -- receive an additional 27 hours of training or 24 hours of training for them to be trained on special equipment.

[10:55:04]

So to answer your question, Mr. Chairman, there absolutely is additional training for those hard platoon CDU officers.

RYAN: Well, I don't want to take up too much time but we're going to come back to that. But there wasn't any special training specifically about January 6th to have them prepare for that. You're talking about the standard training that they get, not in particular for this -- this moment in time with all of the intelligence and everything else that we had, there was no --

PITTMAN: That specialized training carries over with those officers, those officers train on a routine basis as it relates to hard gear platoons, that they are prepared for civil disturbance (INAUDIBLE). So those officers are trained specially for those types of events. Yes, sir.

RYAN: Ms. DeLauro?

REP. ROSA DELAURO (D-CT): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I'd like to direct my attention here, if you will, to the role, the function, the relevance of the Capitol Police Board. Can you either both of you, what does the Capitol Police Board do? What is its mission, what is its authority?

BLODGETT: Thank you, ma'am.

DELAURO: Somebody?

BLODGETT: Yes, yes, thank you, ma'am. The Capitol Police Board acts as a policy board of directors over the Capitol Police. There's some statutory authorities that they do have with vehicle and traffic and the Capitol Police enforce those on a day-to-day basis. There's obviously the emergency requests for executive branch assistance, protection of leadership overseas, and deployments are just some of the direct statutory inputs that the Capitol Police Board does have.

I see the role of the Capitol Police Board is to provide the policy guidance to the chief, support the chief and the needs that she has to both your committees and then obviously on the Senate as well. And then to take your concerns with the police and work with the Capitol Police to correct those concerns that you have, as well as personally providing a House perspective to the policing of the grounds. DELAURO: And, Chief, what is your view of the role of the Capitol

Police Board?

PITTMAN: I'm sorry, ma'am, you were breaking up, could you repeat your question?

DELAURO: Oh, sure. Your view of the role of the Capitol Police Board?

PITTMAN: Yes, so the Capitol Police Board, in my view, provides direct oversight to the United States Capitol Police. When there are huge or special events that are occurring on the campus, the United States Capitol Police develops and operational plan and they share those plans with the Capitol Police Board.

As it relates to an intelligence perspective on any types of events, the Capitol Police Board is kept apprised of any of those things as well. But the Capitol Police Board works in close collaboration with -- if you will, with the members of Congress so that they can make their security needs known, and then that information is kind of like a two-way communication. The Capitol Police Board would then share those requirements with the Capitol Police as it relates to security.

DELAURO: With regard to January 6th, was (ph) the Capitol Police Board functioning? Did it function? What operational plans were being reviewed? Is it not the fact that when the request for National Guard, when there was a request for National Guard, the Capitol Police, the board said that the optics wouldn't be good or we don't need this or the request denied.

[10:59:41]

You -- there doesn't appear to be -- what -- what is its -- what is its real role? Does it have a role in oversight of the Capitol Police? I know it does a lot of ceremonial things and I appreciate that, everybody has to be taken care of.