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Lawmakers angrily grill Capitol security officials over lack of leadership as mob stormed US Capitol


House lawmakers angrily grilled acting US Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman and acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett on Thursday over the security failures that occurred on January 6, repeatedly pressing both officials on the lack of communication by law enforcement leaders as their officers were overwhelmed by the pro-Trump mob that day.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican from Washington state, said she was with police officers during the attack and saw the communication failures happening in real-time.

“It was very clear that their head pieces, the communication pieces, they were getting no actual real communication, they were getting no leadership, they were getting no direction, there was no coordination and you could see the fear in their eyes,” Beutler said.

“When I talk about communications failures, I’m literally talking about the leadership. No one owning the frequency and giving direction and that’s the thing I want to know, I want to know if you’re fixing that?” she added.

Pittman responded by telling lawmakers that the department didn’t follow protocols during the insurrection for how to deal with an emergency situation, largely because officers were overwhelmed.

“On January 6th, our incident command protocols were not adhered to as they should have,” Pittman, who took over after the January 6 attack, told a House appropriations subcommittee.

She made the comment in response to questions about communication breakdowns that hampered the response while pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol. She said the failures stemmed from the fact that police lines were so overrun that commanders who oversee the emergency response were instead physically fending off rioters.

“When there’s a breakdown you look for those commanders with boots on the ground to provide that instruction,” Pittman said. “That did not happen, primarily because those operational commanders at the time were so overwhelmed, they started to participate and assist the officers … versus providing that guidance and direction.”

Beutler pushed back on that explanation, saying it is the role of law enforcement leadership to provide clear instructions to officers on the ground.

“I’m hearing a lot of process and a lot of almost blaming why there is a problem versus hearing how you’re going to make sure that there is a command center that speaks into the ear pieces of the officers and provides directions and leadership. That part of the problem there was chaos was because each and every one of these officers’ boots on the ground, commander or not, had to make a decision with no information,” she said.

Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro directed her frustrations Thursday toward the board that oversees the US Capitol Police, saying it is “obsolete” and isn’t keeping members safe, blaming the board’s bureaucracy for the slow response during the January 6 insurrection.

The three-member board is comprised of the chief of the Capitol Police, the House sergeant-at-arms and the Senate sergeant-at-arms. Their lack of coordination during the attack has been a major focus of congressional oversight hearings this week, and members of the board have contradicted each other about the timeline that day.

“At the moment I view it as a vestigial, it’s just there,” said DeLauro, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. “It doesn’t appear to do a hell of a lot, nor did it do with a hell of a lot to deal with this situation on January 6. It’s like your appendix. It’s just there, but doesn’t have a real function.”

Her comments came two days after a Senate hearing where the three officials who were on the Capitol Police Board during the attack said that the bureaucracy creates a situation where no single person has ultimate responsibility to secure the complex. These three officials all resigned their positions after the insurrection.

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