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Pelosi and GOP Trade Jabs Over the Riot: Whose Job Was It to Fully Secure the U.S. Capitol?

02-16-2021
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Protesters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is moving to form an independent, Sept. 11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol.

The move is in response to bipartisan calls for an inquiry into the attack, including the breakdown in security that allowed protestors to breach and invade the Capitol building.

Pelosi said the commission will "investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021, domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex … and relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power."

In a letter to her Democratic colleagues, Pelosi said the House will also put forth supplemental spending to boost security at the Capitol.

Investigations into the riot were already planned, with Senate hearings scheduled later this month in the Senate Rules Committee. 

Last month, Pelosi asked retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré to lead an immediate review of the Capitol's security after calls by members of both parties in both chambers to conduct a review.

In her letter Monday, Pelosi said, "It is clear from his findings and from the impeachment trial that we must get to the truth of how this happened."

An independent commission along the lines of the one that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks would probably require legislation to create. Still, such a panel would pose risks of sharpening partisan divisions or overshadowing President Joe Biden's legislative agenda.

Lawmakers from both parties appearing on Sunday news shows indicated they thought a larger investigation of the incident was justified.

"There should be a complete investigation about what happened," said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), one of seven Republicans who voted to convict former President Trump in the Senate impeachment trial on Saturday. "What was known, who knew it and when they knew, all that, because that builds the basis so this never happens again."  

Who Makes Security Decisions for the Capitol?

Meanwhile, several Republican House members sent a letter to Pelosi asking her to explain what security precautions were taken before the attack. They say many questions remain unanswered about the speaker's responsibility for the security of the Capitol. 

Fox News reported House Administration Committee Ranking Member Rodney Davis, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan, House Oversight Committee Ranking Member James Comer, and House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes pointed to claims made by former Capitol Police Chief Steve Sund, who said on Jan. 4 that he contacted former Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving to request the assistance of the National Guard.  

In a letter to Pelosi last month, Sund said Irving told him he was concerned about "the optics" and didn't feel the "intelligence supported it."

"As you are aware, the Speaker of the House is not only the leader of the majority party but also has enormous institutional responsibilities," the Republican lawmakers wrote. "The Speaker is responsible for all operational decisions made within the House."

"When then-Chief Sund made a request for National Guard support on January 4th, why was that request denied?" the Republicans wrote. "Did Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving get permission or instruction from your staff on January 4th prior to denying Chief Sund's request for the National Guard?"

"It is the job of the Capitol Police Board, on which these three individuals sat, to properly plan and prepare for security threats facing the U.S. Capitol," Pelosi's office responded, according to Fox News

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