Senate holds first public hearing on Capitol riot

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Mike Hayes and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 3:06 PM ET, Tue February 23, 2021
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2:19 p.m. ET, February 23, 2021

Committee chair outlines what today's hearing on the Capitol attack revealed 

Erin Scott/Pool/The New York Times/AP
Erin Scott/Pool/The New York Times/AP

The Senate hearing on the Capitol riot has wrapped. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Rules Committee, outlined several things she said were made "very clear" to her as a result of today's hearing.

These are the points she highlighted:

  • On the nature of the attack: "There is clear agreement that this was a planned insurrection," Klobuchar said. "This was planned. We now know this was a planned insurrection. It involved White supremacists. It involved extremist groups, and it certainly could have been so much worse except for the bravery of the officer."
  • On problems with intelligence: "We learned about the intelligence break down. So many of the members of both committees asked about that, particularly the Jan. 5th, the FBI report, that had some very significant warnings from social media about people who were coming to Washington who wanted to wage war. The fact that did not get to key leaders, the sergeant of arms or the Capitol Police chief, is of course very disturbing," she said.
  • On the approval of the National Guard: "The delays in approving a request for National Guard assistance, both from the Capitol Police board and the Department of Defense — the fact that the sergeant at arms were focused on keeping the members safe in both chambers while the chief was trying to get some emergency approval, to me you can point fingers, but you could also look at this as a process that is not prepared for a crisis," she said. "And I think out of that, there's some general agreement just based on talking to a number of members that there should be changes to the Capitol Police board, the approval process and the like, and it's clear that that action must be taken not only to protect our Capitol, but also to protect the brave officers charged with protecting the citadel of democracy."

Klobuchar called today's hearing "very constructive" and said the Senate plans to have additional hearings next week to dig deeper on the events of Jan. 6. Today's hearing was held by both the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Rules committees.

1:53 p.m. ET, February 23, 2021

Ex-Capitol Police chief learned about key FBI warning "yesterday"

From CNN's Marshall Cohen 

Andrew Harnik/AP
Andrew Harnik/AP

The former US Capitol Police Chief says he only learned this week about a bombshell FBI memo that was sent one day before the insurrection with an explicit warning about potential violence.

The much-discussed “Norfolk memo,” named for the FBI office where it originated, has been a key point of contention at a Senate hearing Tuesday with the top officials who were responsible for security at the Capitol that day. 

Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said the Norfolk memo reached his department before the attack but he and other leaders did not see it.  

Interestingly, Sund said Tuesday that he only learned about it this week, telling lawmakers, “this is a report that I am just learning about within the last, they informed me yesterday of the report. “ 

The FBI memo was first made public by the Washington Post on Jan. 12. The story received national attention because it was the first indication of clear warnings of an attack on the Capitol. It is unclear why it took six weeks for Sund to learn about that memo, even after the press coverage.

1:51 p.m. ET, February 23, 2021

Politicians weren't involved in National Guard delay, former Capitol security official says

From CNN's Marshall Cohen 

A top Capitol security official on Tuesday debunked claims by some Republicans that Democratic lawmakers delayed the deployment of the National Guard during the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

Then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund previously said it took one hour for then-House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving to approve his request for National Guard troops. Sund claimed Irving told him he needed to “run it up the chain of command,” which would include elected congressional leaders from both parties.

On Tuesday, Irving disputed this timeline and claimed there was no delay. 

Sund’s previous comments led some top House Republicans to accuse House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, of slowing down the National Guard response during the attack.

They sent a letter to Pelosi last week, asking her to explain any involvement and accusing her office of “obstruction.” 

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican who promoted former President Trump’s lies about voter fraud, brought up this angle at the Senate hearing Tuesday. He asked Irving if any politicians delayed in the desperate requests for national guard troops while the Capitol was being stormed on Jan. 6. 

“You weren’t waiting any point from congressional leadership? … You weren’t waiting for them at any point, there was no delay in getting national guard requests?” Hawley asked. 

“No, absolutely not,” Irving said. 

This debunks comments from Rep. Jim Jordan, a top Republican from Ohio, who wrote the letter to Pelosi. Last week, he tweeted about the slow deployment of troops, saying, “During the attack, Capitol Police made the request again. It took over an hour to get approval from Pelosi’s team!”

2:01 p.m. ET, February 23, 2021

Former Capitol Police chief grilled on why officers weren't wearing enough protection during attack

From CNN's Peter Nickeas

Erin Scott/The New York Times via AP
Erin Scott/The New York Times via AP

Former US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund cited “extensive costs,” “extensive training,” and the lack of need up until the insurrection when asked why more officers weren’t outfitted with riot gear that would have given officers more protection and greater ability to fight back insurrectionists.

Sund gave the answer in response to questioning from Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio.

“It requires extensive costs, extensive training to keep and maintain that level for us. A number of our officers are posted in interior posts, screening posts, things like that, where that gear wouldn't do them — you know, wouldn't provide them any support,” Sund said.

"I would just say, obviously those officers who you say had interior posts needed it that day. So it's not accurate to say that they didn't need it,” Portman responded.

Sund told senators that the number of civil disturbance units in the US Capitol Police force – four groups of about 40 officers with full riot gear and another three groups of about 40 with lighter gear – had sufficed up until Jan. 6.

“I don't know why you would have a civil disturbance unit platoon that didn't have riot gear,” Portman said. “But you've just testified that that is true. That only four of them had it, is that correct?"

"That is correct,” Sund said. 

By contrast, every DC Metropolitan Police Department officer is assigned a baton, a helmet, gloves and a gas mask and officers coming out of the training academy have some basic civil disturbance training, said Richard Contee, acting chief of police for the DC Metropolitan Police Department. Not every US Capitol Police officer has that gear. 

Sund noted that he ordered helmets for his officers in September, though Covid-related manufacturing delays prevented them from arriving in time. The department distributed some helmets a couple days before the insurrection.


1:01 p.m. ET, February 23, 2021

Senate plans to hear from Pentagon officials next week

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

Andrew Harnik/AP
Andrew Harnik/AP

Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar told reporters today that the Senate Rules and Homeland Security Committees would hold another joint hearing next week with Pentagon officials testifying.

“Yes, they’re coming next week. We’re having another hearing,” Klobuchar said.

Acting Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee told the committees today that he was “stunned” at the Army’s hesitation to deploy the National Guard to the Capitol on Jan. 6 as the attack was unfolding. Today’s hearing is the first of what Klobuchar said would be a series of hearings examining the security failures on Jan. 6.

“There were clearly intelligence issues — with information that was out there that didn’t get to the right people, actions that weren’t taken, and mostly that the National Guard, where there was a combination of the Defense Department and when the request was made weren’t called in in a major way,” Klobuchar told reporters outside the hearing room.

Klobuchar also said there was a clear structural problem with Capitol Police, where the chief had to go to the House and Senate Sergeant at Arms for approval, suggesting changes needed to be made.

“To have that structure where in a crisis he’s trying to go to them, while they’re trying to protect the members, it doesn’t really make any sense at all,” Klobuchar said. “So the structure has to be changed. It doesn’t mean have the board, you want someone to supervise, but not those day-to-day decisions, the emergency decisions.”

2:34 p.m. ET, February 23, 2021

Klobuchar on Capitol security: "It's not going to be just like it used to be"

From CNN's Ali Zaslav

Erin Scott/The New York Times via AP
Erin Scott/The New York Times via AP

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Rules committee, weighed in on when the fencing could come down around the US Capitol complex, saying it’s going to be up to leadership and based on security recommendations.

She told reporters:

“Well, that is going to be a discussion on the leadership level, and it’s going to be based on recommendations of security experts… I think people will have to realize that it’s not going to be just like it used to be, but we have to make the building accessible, and so that’s a big decision as well as the use of the National Guard going forward.”

The Minnesota Democrat added: “After 9/11, the National Guard was here for a number of years.”

1:05 p.m. ET, February 23, 2021

Go There: CNN answers your questions on the Capitol riot

The Senate is holding its first public hearing today on the Capitol Hill attack.

CNN’s Crime and Justice Correspondent Shimon Prokupecz has the latest from DC.

Watch more:

12:34 p.m. ET, February 23, 2021

The hearing is back after a short break

The Senate hearing just returned from a five-minute break. Senators will continue to question law enforcement officials about what occurred on Jan. 6, the day a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

The witnesses are:

12:09 p.m. ET, February 23, 2021

FBI gave Capitol Police "troubling" information on the eve of Jan. 6 — but it was not delivered to leadership

From CNN's Zachary Cohen and Jeremy Herb

Sen. Gary Peters revealed Tuesday that an FBI report containing “troubling” information was given to US Capitol Police headquarters on the eve of Jan. 6 but never made it to the department’s leadership, a breakdown the Michigan Democrat said is “clearly a major problem." 

“How can you not get that vital intelligence on the eve of what’s going to be a major event?,” Peters asked.

Former US Capitol Police chief Steven Sund responded that it was “coming in as raw data,” though he acknowledged the information would have been helpful. 

“I agree that’s something we need to look at. What’s the process and how do we streamline?” he said.

Peters also pressed Sund to explain why more actions weren't taken in light of a Jan. 3 internal Capitol Police intelligence report that stated the Capitol was the target of the January 6 protests.

Sund responded that the report prompted Capitol Police to discuss its plans with Metropolitan Police and expand its perimeter for the event, though he also said that the expansion was already underway.