House holds hearing on Capitol riot security failures

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 2:22 p.m. ET, February 25, 2021
6 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
11:11 a.m. ET, February 25, 2021

Acting US Capitol Police chief: "No credible threat" indicated thousands would attack the Capitol 

From CNN's Whitney Wild, Jeremy Herb and Zachary Cohen

Acting US Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said in her testimony that the agency had taken action ahead of the Jan. 6 riot based on intelligence that extremists planned to participate in the preceding rally and planned to be armed, but that the intelligence failed to predict the scope of the attack, which would ultimately overwhelm officers when the Capitol was breached.

"Since the 6th, it has been suggested that the department was either ignorant of or ignored critical intelligence that indicated that an attack of the magnitude that we experienced on January 6th would occur," Pittman said.

"The department was not ignorant of intelligence indicating an attack of the size and scale we encountered on the 6th. There was no such intelligence. Although we knew the likelihood for violence by extremists, no credible threat indicated that tens of thousands would attack the US Capitol. Nor did the intelligence received from the FBI or any other law enforcement partner indicate such a threat," Pittman told lawmakers.

Pittman noted that then-Vice President Mike Pence was brought to the Capitol that day because Secret Service was also "unaware of any credible threat" that described the magnitude of what occurred.

The acting chief said there were also intelligence failures in providing an accurate warning of the nature of those involved in the riot.

"The department also did not ignore intelligence that we had which indicated an elevated risk of violence from extremist groups, to the contrary, we heightened our security posture," Pittman said. "There is evidence that some of those who stormed the Capitol were organized. But there is also evidence that a large number were everyday Americans who took on a mob mentality because they were angry and desperate. It is the conduct of this latter group that the department was not prepared for," she continued.

In her written testimony, Pittman called the events of Jan. 6 an "ugly battle" and defended the work of her colleagues that day. 

"But at the end of the day, the USCP succeeded in its mission. It protected Congressional Leadership. It protected Members. And it protected the Democratic Process. At the end of a battle that lasted for hours, democracy prevailed. It prevailed in part because of the determination and commitment of USCP officers at every level of this Department and the assistance of the Department’s law enforcement partners, such as the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)," Pittman said in her written testimony. 


10:37 a.m. ET, February 25, 2021

The acting US Capitol Police chief is testifying now. Here are key things to know about her.

From CNN's Nicquel Terry Ellis

House Appropriations
House Appropriations

Yogananda Pittman, the acting US Capitol Police chief, is testifying now in the House.

She was appointed last month after the former head resigned in the fallout from the agency's inadequate response to pro-Trump rioters who staged an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Pittman, who previously served as an assistant chief, became the first woman and first Black person to head the Capitol Police, according to Morgan State University, the historically black school that Pittman graduated from in 1999. CNN reached out to Capitol police and has not been able to independently confirm this.

Pittman replaced former chief Steven Sund, who resigned after he was criticized for being ill-prepared to respond to the deadly mob on Capitol Hill. Sund testified in the Senate on Tuesday about the security failures of Jan. 6, and said that he had never seen a critical FBI memo that warned of a "war" on the Capitol.

"Chief Pittman is a very progressive Chief," Sund told CNN about Pittman's appointment. "She's very concerned as well about the welfare of the officers."

Pittman comes with a track record of making history as a Black woman in law enforcement. She joined the department in April 2001 and became one of the first Black female supervisors to achieve the rank of Captain, according to the Capitol Police website. As captain, she managed more than 400 officers and civilians and led the security footprint for the 2013 presidential inauguration.

Pittman's other assignments have included providing security and protective details for US Senators and visiting dignitaries and serving as an Inspector in the Office of Accountability and Improvement.

Pittman has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Morgan State and a Master's degree in Public Administration from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, according to a statement from Morgan State.

Pittman's appointment put her among the few Black women police chiefs in the nation.

10:56 a.m. ET, February 25, 2021

Today's hearing on the Capitol riot security failures has started 

From CNN's Whitney Wild, Jeremy Herb and Zachary Cohen

The House Appropriations committee hearing on the deadly Capitol riot has begun. 

The witnesses are:

  • Timothy Blodgett, acting House Sergeant at Arms
  • Yogananda Pittman, acting Capitol Police chief

According to her written prepared testimony, Pittman will tell lawmakers that US Capitol Police had taken action ahead of the Jan. 6 attack based on intelligence that extremists planned to participate in the preceding rally and planned to be armed.

That intelligence, however, failed to predict the scope of the attack, which would ultimately overwhelm officers when the Capitol was breached.

Today's hearing comes after another round of law enforcement officials testified in the Senate on Tuesday about the attack, and echoed similar observations.

9:44 a.m. ET, February 25, 2021

Key security officials will face questions about the Capitol riot. Here's what you need to know.

From CNN's Zachary Cohen, Whitney Wild and Marshall Cohen

The House Appropriations committee, which has direct oversight of the US Capitol Police, is holding a hearing today with acting USCP Chief Yogananda Pittman and acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett.

This will mark the first time either has appeared in an open hearing. Pittman apologized to lawmakers for security failures in a closed door hearing last month.

During the closed-door briefing Pittman said that the "department failed to meet its own high standards" on Jan. 6 when a crowd of pro-Trump rioters overran the Capitol building.

Pittman called the insurrection a "terrorist attack" and offered her "sincerest apologies on behalf of the department," according to her prepared remarks during the closed briefing for lawmakers.Pittman also said the department was aware of a "strong potential for violence" targeting Congress and did not take the appropriate steps to prevent it.

Her new testimony today comes as officials are starting the search for a new USCP chief.

A congressional source told CNN that Congress is moving forward with hiring an outside entity to begin the search.

Several other committees working together have already received briefings and documents from intelligence agencies as part of the numerous probes.

The House Intelligence, Homeland Security, Oversight and Judiciary committees' joint review prompted an initial production of documents last week from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and National Counterterrorism Center, a congressional source told CNN. Additionally, they have received several briefings from the three agencies.

The source said so far the documents have mostly been finished intelligence products that the committee could already access.

On Tuesday, another round of law enforcement officials testified in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Rules committees about the Capitol riot.

9:37 a.m. ET, February 25, 2021

This is the 9/11 style commission Democrats want to form to investigate the insurrection

From CNN's Ryan Nobles and Jeremy Herb

Democrats have drafted a plan for the formation of a 9/11 style commission designed to investigate what led to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

A senior Democratic aide involved in the negotiations described the plan as a discussion draft to begin the process of crafting the legislation that will be used to form the group.

According to the aide, the draft calls for a commission of eleven members, outside of government that will be appointed by congressional leaders and the White House.

The "big four" leaders in Congress would each get to appoint two members, while the President would appoint three members including the chair.

Based on the current leadership make up Democrats would choose seven of the commission members and Republicans would pick four.

The commissioners would be tasked with filing their report by the end of 2021. The commission would end 60 days after the report has been issued.

While this commission is being modeled after the 9/11 commission, its work is going to be expected to be complete under a much shorter timeline. The commission formed to investigate the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC was formed in November of 2002. It did not release their final report until August of 2004.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced plans to create the commission during an update on the ongoing review of Capitol Security being led by retired Lt. Gen. Russell Honore. Pelosi has promised that while the commission will draw on the experience of the 9/11 commission, it's membership will be more diverse.

"Different from 9/11. What were there, nine people? All white, one woman. It will look different," Pelosi said.

A brewing political fight over the creation of the commission has begun, however, not only on the partisan makeup of the panel but also over the scope of the probe and how the commission would examine domestic extremism.

Republicans are balking at the plan put forward by Pelosi to create the outside commission with more Democrats than Republicans, and one whose mandate they say would go beyond just the security failures of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday that Pelosi's plan "sets the stage" for a politicized and cherry-picked inquiry into domestic violent extremism beyond Jan. 6, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Pelosi in a letter this week that Congress should not include predetermined conclusions about what the commission should investigate.

9:29 a.m. ET, February 25, 2021

Acting Capitol Police chief will tell lawmakers intelligence failed to predict scope of Jan. 6 attack

From CNN's Whitney Wild, Jeremy Herb and Zachary Cohen

Acting US Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said Wednesday that the agency had taken action ahead of the Jan. 6 riot based on intelligence that extremists planned to participate in the preceding rally and planned to be armed, but that the intelligence failed to predict the scope of the attack, which would ultimately overwhelm officers when the Capitol was breached.

Had there been better intelligence of the coordinated attack, Pittman suggested, the US Secret Service might not have brought then-Vice President Mike Pence – a target of the insurrectionists – to the Capitol to oversee the certification of the November election that day, according to her testimony released ahead of today's House Appropriations Committee hearing.

"The Department's preparations were based on the information it gathered from its law enforcement partners like the FBI and others within the intelligence community, none of which indicated that a mass insurrection of this scale would occur at the US Capitol on January 6th," Pittman said in her written prepared testimony.

"Nor did the intelligence received from the FBI or any other law enforcement partners include any specific credible threat that thousands of American citizens would attack the U.S. Capitol," she added. "Indeed, the United States Secret Service brought the Vice-President to the Capitol for the election certification that day because they were also unaware of any specific credible threat of that magnitude."

Pittman said in her written testimony that the department's Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division had produced as many as four intelligence assessments leading up to the riot Jan. 6, with the final assessment showing that members of militias, White supremacists and other extremist groups would participate in the rally and planned to be armed.

The final assessment, Pittman wrote, prompted Capitol Police to post Dignitary Protection Agents at the homes of some congressional leaders, deploy other agents of that unit to the Ellipse to protect members of Congress and post evacuation vehicles for congressional leadership on the day of the rally.

But Pittman says the intelligence failed to foresee the scale of the attack that would take place on Jan. 6, with thousands of rioters overwhelming outnumbered Capitol Police officers and breaching the Capitol. The intelligence told them to prepare for a protest, Pittman plans to say – but never indicated a coordinated attack.

Another top law enforcement official will tell House lawmakers Thursday that problematic intelligence and a breakdown in sharing information between law enforcement agencies contributed to the security failures on Janu. 6 when the US Capitol was overrun by a violent pro-Trump mob.

Acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett will say in his prepared remarks that the intelligence prior to Jan. 6 was an issue, citing a Jan. 3 US Capitol Police bulletin as an example of contradictory information that was provided to law enforcement agencies prior to the attack.

Blodgett will say that this USCP bulletin contained some warnings that the January 6 protests could turn violent and would be different than previous MAGA marches. But he also plans to say the bulletin maintained that Jan. 6 was expected to be similar to previous MAGA marches and he believes that assessment was used to inform the security preparations for the day.

Read more about their testimonies here.