Senate holds 1st public hearing into Capitol assault security failures

2/23/2021 6:56:00 PM

'I received chemical burns to my face that still have not healed.' Capitol Police Capt. Carneysha Mendoza recounts her experience inside the rotunda during the Capitol riot. Watch:

Andrew Harnik/Getty ImagesFormer Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund arrives to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs & Senate Rules and Administration joint hearing, Feb. 23, 2021, in Washington, DC.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.

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"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, sometimes getting emotional, said 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.

Stenger, the former Senate Sergeant at Arms, speaking publicly for the first time, said in his 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 said.

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.

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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.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty ImagesSupporters of President Donald Trump roam under the Capitol Rotunda after invading the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.MORE: DOJ has identified 400 suspects, charged 135 in Capitol riotIn 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.

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MORE: Congress aims to avoid politics with independent Jan. 6 investigation“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.John Minchillo/AP, FILEViolent insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.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."

Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images, FILESecurity forces respond with tear gas after the US President Donald Trump's supporters breached the US Capitol security in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.MORE: In new defense, dozens of Capitol rioters say law enforcement 'let us in' to building

"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. Read more: ABC News »

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But Ron Johnson says the insurrectionists were “jovial.” If he’s not an idiot, I don’t know who is! This is the kind of Trump world you guys wanted? Most of you crazy republicans needs to change or otherwise this is gonna be a country of chaos. Trump’s needs to be punish. He created this violence(period)

Next time do what you do best, shoot em up. On June 9, 1954 Joseph Welsh, representing the US Army in hearings where Wisconsin senator Joe McCarthy was pushing a baseless campaign destroying people’s lives, Welsh asked the question, “Have you no sense of decency?” I’d ask SenRonJohnson the same except we know the answer.

wbznewsradio I bet she has hot sauce in her purse. 😉 💙🙏 Do you think repuglycans even care about your safety. Republicans only care that you take care of them. JoyTaylorTalks Chemical Burns aren’t fun huh. Maybe the police should also stop deploying chemical agents against our own people. hahaha whatever

Capt. Carneysha Mendoza and the Capitol Police are heroes. Never forget Utah reps SenMikeLee SeanReyesUT BurgessOwens RepChrisStewart actively fostered GQP doubt about the legitimacy of the election, then minimized the US Capitol insurrection and domestic terrorism. utpol She’s lying under oath. You do not get chemical burns from pepper spray or tear gas.

Awful. Any more news yet on the lady who got shot, and the several who, according to the BBC, died in the riot? Especially the other police officer? I just ask as the media versions appear at best sketchy. Powerful testimony. Chemical burns? Where? Meanwhile, SenTedCruz is playing Candy Crush on his phone.

Those white ass bastards DONALD TRUMP AND HIS DOMESTIC TERRORIST GROUPS DID THIS !!! All of the heated rhetoric from the Democrats and Republicans caused this. Thank you for your service and dedication. You testified with dignity and poise. I bow! She should have treated them like black people if she was so scared

Remember this FoxNews ISNT AIRING this It’s not Important for them her story was terrifying. at some point they’re going to have to address the cops that opened the gates and let their fellow officers get attacked