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Senate holds first public hearing into Capitol assault security failures

By BEATRICE PETERSON and LUKE BARR, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — Barbed wire fencing and National Guard troops still in place on Capitol Hill on Tuesday are haunting reminders of the deadly assault on Jan. 6 that left 140 police officers injured and five people dead.

The fallout from the attack continues as the Senate holds the first public meeting into security failures as part of a joint investigation by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

Testifying are top officials responsible for security at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Three of those officials, former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, former Senate Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper Michael Stenger and former House Sergeant at Arms Paul D. Irving, resigned in the immediate wake of the attack.

Also being questioned is Metropolitan Police Department acting chief, Robert Contee. His agency provided backup for the Capitol security force that was overrun by the pro-Trump mob.

In his opening statement, Sund called the attack on the Capitol “the worst attack on law enforcement and our democracy” that he’s seen in his 30-year career and laid blame on various federal agencies for the poor planning, not the Capitol Police.

“Based on the intelligence that we received, we planned for an increased level of violence at the Capitol and that some participants may be armed. But none of the intelligence we received, predicted what actually occurred,” Sund said.

The former chief said that “extensive” preparations were put in place ahead of the riot including “intelligence and information sharing with our federal and local partners, and department officials, implementing significant enhancements for Member protection, the development of extensive operational enhancements to include the additional posting of officers around and inside the congressional buildings, a significant civil disobedience deployment, and an expanded perimeter, and the distribution of additional protective equipment for the officers.”

Sund says as late as Jan. 5 there was a meeting with top intelligence officials including the FBI – and they provided no new intelligence.

“We properly planned for a mass demonstration with possible violence, what we got was a military-style coordinated assault on my officers and the violent takeover of the Capitol Building,” he said.

Former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger, speaking publicly for the first time, said in his prepared opening remarks that Washington, D.C., is a “unique environment” for law enforcement in the region and said everything should be reviewed.

“There is an opportunity to learn lessons from the events of January 6th. Investigations should be considered as to funding and travel of what appears to be professional agitators. First Amendment rights should always be considered in conjunction with professional investigations,” he says.

Contee, in his opening remarks, noted that his police officers are barred from making arrests on Capitol grounds but based on the experience of prior demonstrations they knew violence was a possibility. He too made clear that MPD intelligence did not predict what occurred on Jan. 6.

“The District did not have intelligence pointing to a coordinated assault on the Capitol.”

Contee says police officers found pipe bombs outside of the DNC and RNC. His department had four objectives on January 6: stopping rioters, securing the perimeter, allowing Congress to resume and making arrests.

He said he was “stunned” by the U.S. Army’s response, which he said was “reluctant to send the D.C. National Guard to the Capitol.”

“While I certainly understand the importance of both planning and public perception – the factors cited by the staff on the call – these issues become secondary when you are watching your employees, vastly outnumbered by a mob, being physically assaulted,” he said.

Contee says he was “shocked” that the Army did not quickly agree to deploy the National Guard.

“The Army staff responded that they were not refusing to send them, but wanted to know the plan and did not like the optics of boots on the ground at the Capitol,” he said.

Lawmakers said they will use the hearing to determine what security is needed in Washington moving forward.

The committee chairs, Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., said another hearing will include representatives from the Department of Defense, FBI, Homeland Security, and other agencies. Lawmakers from both parties said they want to prevent incidents like the siege from ever happening again.

Earlier this month, ABC News obtained a copy of a letter sent by Sund, who said the intelligence leading up to the event didn’t indicate it would become as violent as it did.

“Perfect hindsight does not change the fact that nothing in our collective experience or our intelligence – including intelligence provided by FBI, Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and D.C. Metropolitan Police (MPD) – indicated that a well-coordinated, armed assault on the Capitol might occur on Jan. 6,” Sund wrote.

In his letter, he wrote intelligence officials indicated Jan. 6 would be similar to previous mostly peaceful post-election demonstrations in November and December.

Sund said he directed the Capitol Police to have every sworn officer working, and activated seven Civil Disturbance Unit platoons, which included approximately 250 officers. Four of those platoons were equipped with helmets, protective clothing and shields.

On Jan. 5, Sund hosted a virtual meeting focused on the Jan. 6 event as well as the inauguration. “During the meeting, no entity, including the FBI, provided any intelligence indicating that there would be a coordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists,” Sund wrote.

“There is no question that on Jan. 6, a breakdown of leadership, preparation and response allowed domestic terrorists — including white supremacist and anti-government groups — to breach the Capitol in an attempt to overturn a free and fair election,” Peters told ABC News in a statement. “The American people deserve to know how it happened and what actions lawmakers will take to prevent hate groups and dangerous conspiracy theorists from further attacking our country.”

“The entire intelligence community seems to have missed this,” he added.

In his opening remarks, the ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, remembered Capitol Police officer Howard Liebengood, who days afterward died by suicide. “No officer was more dedicated to the mission of the Capitol Hill Police Department admission and duty to serve and protect. And I’m proud to call him a friend,” Portman said.

Portman added he wants to know why “the Capitol was overtaken in a matter of hours, we need to know whether Capitol Police officers were properly trained and equipped to respond to an attack on the Capitol, and if not, why not. And we need to know why the Capitol complex itself was so vulnerable and insecure, that it could be so easily overrun.”

“The outrageous, deadly, and destructive attack marks a sad day in the history of our country,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told ABC News in a statement. “The officers who defended the Capitol that day deserve to be recognized and praised for their valiant efforts.” He added, “our institutions are durable, but I hope they will never again be tested in this way.”

Klobuchar told CNN on Monday that she wants to know what exactly happened with the National Guard and why there was a delay in deployment.

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