WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 20: A worker removes the razor wire from the security fencing around the U.S. Capitol on March 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. The fencing was put in place after the January 6 attack on the Capitol building.  (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Some Capitol fencing coming down as lawmakers differ on recollections of insurrection threat
03:17 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Months after the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol, Rep. Barry Loudermilk, a Republican from Georgia, made clear that confusion remains over who ultimately oversees Capitol Hill security.

During a hearing in front of the House Administration Committee on Thursday, Loudermilk asked the United States Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton who has oversight of the Capitol Police Board, the panel to which the Capitol Police chief reports.

“I do not know that, sir,” Bolton replied. He added that reviewing the Capitol Police Board is not under his purview.

“OK, so, you’re unaware of who actually has oversight over the Capitol Police Board? Does anybody?” Loudermilk asked, expressing frustration that it was not immediately obvious who can hold the Capitol Police Board accountable.

The three-person panel is made up the Senate Sergeant at Arms, the House Sergeant at Arms and the Architect of the Capitol. The Senate majority leader and House speaker appoint the Senate and House Sergeants at arms, while the President appoints the Architect of the Capitol, meaning the congressional leadership has some oversight over the members of the board representing each side of the legislative branch. For example, following the insurrection on January 6, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told Politico he planned to fire then-Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger if he did not resign. Stenger ultimately quit.

Thursday’s exchange highlights that months after the insurrection, Hill security has a long path toward a clear and functional system.

United States Capitol Police Inspector Michael Bolton is seen on footage of Thursday's hearing.

Throughout the hearing, Bolton recommended several areas where the Capitol Police could make meaningful changes, including transforming from a police-oriented agency into a protection-oriented agency. Bolton seemed to be drawing on his experience as an agent with the United States Secret Service, as well as expertise from a former Secret Service agent and a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent he has tasked with assisting his review.

Bolton also suggested the department elevate the intelligence division into its own bureau, with adequate training for employees to effectively analyze and disseminate intelligence as it comes in.

The hearing also brought to light new details about the severe lack of preparation for the Capitol Police Civil Disturbance Unit, a group of officers tasked with controlling a riotous crowd.

“Officers experienced supply constraints during the insurrection and as a result, unarmed and unescorted civilian employees were sent to deliver less than lethal munitions to officers, but they were hindered by the crowd and fearing for their safety, they left their vehicles and retreated,” said Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat.

“You also found that department shields were stationed on a deployment bus, away from one of the CDU platoons, and that CDU platoon attempted to get to the bus to distribute the shields, but they couldn’t do it because the door was locked and as a result this particular CDU platoon was required to respond to the crowd without the protection of their riot shield,” Lofgren said. She pressed Bolton to identify who was supposed to be responsible for equipment management within Capitol Police.

“Who is responsible for ensuring that the sworn officers have up to date and effective equipment?” she asked.

“Ultimately I would say it’s the responsibility for officers having the proper equipment, training, coordination is going to be your leadership,” Bolton said. “Earlier I said it’s not one particular person, it’s the leadership of the department, the department as a whole.”

Bolton added that a deputy chief told rank-and-file officers not to use less lethal crowd control measures, like stun grenades, because leadership worried they may be improperly used and cause serious bodily injury or even death.

“Our feeling is that anything you give a police officer can be misused, if it’s misused, can cause life-altering injuries and or death,” Bolton said. “The takeaway from that is, let’s provide the training to our officers so that they are used appropriately.”

Bolton stopped short of saying the less lethal options would have absolutely prevented the riot from escalating.

“But, it certainly would have gave them a better chance at doing what they needed to do,” he said.

Bolton outlined significant intelligence failures as well.

“Certain officials believed USCP intelligence products indicated there may be threats but did not identify anything specific, while other officials believed it would be inaccurate to state that there were no known specific threats to the Joint Session based on those same USCP intelligence products,” Bolton wrote in his opening remarks.

Bolton referred to the insurrection as a “takeover” of the Capitol in his prepared remarks, representing a bolder assessment of the security failures of that day than other Hill security officials have offered in the flurry of hearings since January 6.

CNN has previously reported on the first two reports generated by Bolton. In the first, he detailed the lack of a comprehensive, department-wide plan to manage the rally-turned-riot. Both the first and second reports put strong emphasis on intelligence breakdowns. Bolton’s first report noted even the intelligence that Capitol Police used to prepare was rife with conflicting conclusions – an observation acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett noted in a recent hearing about failures by Hill security officials.

Some of the intelligence shared within the Capitol Police concluded that the chances of civil disobedience and arrests related to the January 6 protest were improbable, despite another assessment that pointed out the anger and frustration among protesters could lead to violence targeted toward Congress.

Bolton’s second report laid bare even more intelligence breakdowns that are best evidenced by a warning Capitol Police received from the Department of Homeland Security on December 21, which it did not appear to fully utilize.

On that day, “the Department of Homeland Security notified the Department of a blog referencing tunnels on U.S. Capitol grounds used by Members of Congress and research of the website identified four ‘threads/blog topics containing comments of concern,’” the summary states.

“The report identifies the website as https://thedonald.win and includes several pages of comments posted to the website,” it adds.

Bolton told lawmakers there will be many more reports coming throughout the year. The third report will be issued April 30.