WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a move that Democrats described as a blatantly partisan effort to deflect responsibility for the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol from former President Donald Trump, Ohio’s Rep. Jim Jordan and three other top U.S. House Republicans on Monday questioned whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bears some responsibility for security failures that allowed rioters into the building where 2020 presidential electoral votes were being tallied.
Jordan, who is the House Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, joined his counterparts on the House Administration, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees in a letter that asked why a Capitol Police request for National Guard support during the protest was denied several days before before the incursion where five people died. The letter also asked what security guidance was provided by Pelosi and her staff.
Citing published reports that the House Sergeant at Arms denied the request for National Guard support “because the ‘optics’ of having the National Guard on site were not good and the intelligence didn’t support the move,” Jordan’s letter suggested that was done on Pelosi’s behalf — something a spokesman for Pelosi said was not true. The letter also said Democrat-appointed House officers haven’t provided information that Republicans requested about the incident so they can “properly conduct oversight on the January 6th events.”
“Five weeks have passed since the January 6th attack on the Capitol building, and many important questions about your responsibility for the security of the Capitol remain unanswered,” said the Champaign County Republican’s letter. “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 Speaker is responsible for all operational decisions made within the House.”
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill dismissed the letter as effort to deflect responsibility for the riot from Trump. He observed that Jordan and another signer of Monday’s letter “voted to overturn the results of a fair election, just hours after the Capitol was sacked by an insurrectionist, right-wing mob,” when the two opposed accepting electoral votes from states Trump contested. Hammill also questioned the four Republicans’ commitment to security at the Capitol in light of their votes last month against impeaching Trump for his role in “inciting the mob.” On Saturday, impeachment advocates failed to get the two-thirds majority vote they needed in the U.S. Senate to find Trump guilty of inciting insurrection.
Hammill said Pelosi is taking action to ensure accountability for the riot and enhance the Capitol’s security. Several officials responsible for security at the U.S. Capitol – House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger and Capitol Police Chief Steve Sund – were removed from their positions after the incident. Hammill said Irving has acknowledged he did not ask House leaders for a National Guard presence before the riot.
Hammill said that when the committees that oversee Capitol Hill security were briefed before the Jan. 6 incident, Sund and Irving told them “the Capitol Complex had comprehensive security and there was no intelligence that groups would become violent at the Capitol during the certification of electoral votes.” After the insurrection, Hammill said Pelosi asked retired Gen. Russel L. Honoré to “lead an immediate security review of the U.S. Capitol Complex and has called for a 9/11-style commission to investigate, with legislation creating such a panel to be introduced in the coming days. The USCP is also conducting an internal security review.”
“With this transparently partisan attempt to lay blame on the Speaker, who was a target of assassination during the insurrection fueled by the lies of House Republicans, the Ranking Members are trying to absolve former Police Chief Sund, former Sergeant at Arms Stenger and the leader who appointed him, Mitch McConnell, of any responsibility,” said Hammill. “We look forward to these Ranking Members asking these same questions of former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.”
When asked last week why the Capitol wasn’t better prepared for potential violence on Jan. 6 and why the National Guard wasn’t called in advance, Pelosi told a press conference “the interagency cooperation, or lack thereof” is being reviewed. She also suggested it would be beneficial if District of Columbia authorities could be empowered to “call out the National Guard, without getting the permission of the federal government,” as state governors are allowed to do.
“Everything has to be subjected to the harshest review to make sure this doesn’t come again,” Pelosi continued. “We couldn’t be in better hands than General Honoré, who has such experience and commands so much respect in this regard.”
The GOP letter also faulted Pelosi for not consulting Republicans on her decisions to fire Irving, demand Sund’s resignation, and appoint Honoré to lead the security review.
“To the General’s credit he has reached out to several Republicans to brief on his work to date,” the letter said. “We are hopeful his review will result in beneficial recommendations that are not influenced by political motivations. However, it is easy to understand why we and our Senate counterparts remain skeptical that any of his final recommendations will be independent and without influence from you.”