September 16, 2021

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Fact-Checking Republican Claims Blaming Pelosi for Jan. 6 – The New York Times

4 min read

For months, Republican leaders have downplayed the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. But on Tuesday, ahead of the first hearing of a special committee to investigate the riot, they took their approach to new and misleading extremes, falsely blaming Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the violence.

“The American people deserve to know the truth that Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility as speaker of the House for the tragedy that occurred on Jan. 6,” said Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York and the party’s No. 3 leader.

It amounted to an audacious attempt to rewrite the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries and pre-empt the damning testimony of four police officers who were brutalized by the mob of Donald J. Trump’s supporters. Here’s how Republicans twisted the facts.

Looking past the motivations of the mob or Mr. Trump, Republicans said it had been up to Ms. Pelosi and her leadership team to protect the Capitol from the attack, particularly given that intelligence gathered in the weeks before it occurred pointed to the potential for violence against Congress.

“On Jan. 6, these brave offers were put into a vulnerable, impossible position because the leadership at the top has failed,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader.

Ms. Pelosi has considerable influence as the speaker, but she is not responsible for the security of Congress. That is the job of the Capitol Police, an agency Ms. Pelosi only indirectly influences. Most decisions about securing the Capitol are made by the Capitol Police Board, a body that consists of the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms and the Architect of the Capitol.

Ms. Pelosi shares control of the Capitol with the Senate majority leader, who at the time was Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky. Republicans have made no attempt to blame Mr. McConnell for the security breach or for failing to prepare for attack.

That charge also contradicts a bipartisan report produced by a pair of Senate committees that found evidence of systematic failures across American intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies, which misjudged the threat leading up to Jan. 6 and were not properly trained to respond to it.

It also flatly contradicted congressional testimony, news reports and public accounts of that day, when Ms. Pelosi herself was one of the prime targets of the rioters, some of whom stalked the halls of the Capitol chanting ominously, “Nancy…Where are you Nancy?”

Mr. McCarthy and others said that Ms. Pelosi had refused pleas by the Capitol Police to provide backup, like the National Guard, ahead of Jan. 6.

But the speaker of the House does not control the National Guard. And while Congress could have requested support in advance, that decision lies with the Capitol Police Board, not the speaker.

Members of the Capitol Police board have provided conflicting accounts of a debate that occurred on Jan. 4 over whether to request the help in advance. Steven A. Sund, then the chief of Capitol Police, has said he asked the board for the pre-emptive assistance but was rebuffed.

Among the reasons cited, Mr. Sund said, was a concern by the House sergeant-at-arms, Paul D. Irving, about the “optics” of bringing in reinforcements. Ms. Stefanik falsely attributed that concern to Ms. Pelosi, whose aides have said she only learned of the request days later.

A Times investigation detailed why it took nearly two hours to approve the deployment on Jan 6. After rioters breached the Capitol, Chief Sund called Mr. Irving at 1:09 p.m. with an urgent request for the National Guard. Mr. Irving approached Ms. Pelosi’s staff with the request at 1:40 p.m., and her chief of staff relayed it to her at 1:43 p.m., when she approved it. But it would be hours more before Pentagon officials signed off on the deployment and informed the District of Columbia National Guard commander that he had permission to deploy the troops.

Republicans repeatedly said that Ms. Pelosi had been warned as early as mid-December that demonstrations were being planned for Jan. 6 around Congress’s joint session to count the electoral votes.

That appeared to be a reference to early intelligence reports and warnings that began to circulate inside the Capitol Police on Dec. 14, which were evidently never shared widely enough to be acted upon.

But Ms. Pelosi’s aides say she was not briefed at the time about the threat, and the Senate’s joint report found that the warning signs were mixed at best until just days before the attack.

Senators — Republicans and Democrats alike — instead said the blame was with the Capitol Police and intelligence agencies for failing to properly assess and warn about the threats.

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