Capitol Security Finally Gets Questioned

While leaders in the House continue to finalize the parameters of the commission to examine Capitol security failures on Jan. 6, the US Senate begins joint committee hearings to question key players.

DC Metro Police intervene at the attack on the US Capitol, and provide reinforcement for Capitol Police Officers during the riot from Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021. Officials in charge of building security that day will be questioned by the Senate, starting Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (Photo by Mostafa Bassim/via Getty Images)

Leaders in the US House of Representatives are currently hammering out the final details on the new commission, inspired by the one created after 9/11, that will formally investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol. While the bartering process continues there, a bipartisan group of US Senators will proceed with several joint hearings today, in two separate committees. The committees intend to examine and scrutinize the series of security breakdowns that occurred during the riot, that ultimately failed to prevent Trump insurrectionists from breaching the building.

The examination of security officials that were in charge during the attack will be led by both the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Rules and Administration Committee, and the combined effort to take testimony today will be the first time the public will be hearing from these top officials. Both Paul D. Irving, the former House sergeant-at-arms, and Michael C. Stenger, the former Senate sergeant-at-arms, left their posts immediately following the riots, after being asked to resign.

Make a SHERO Tribute

Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who also resigned in the wake of the attacks, will testify before Congress today in addition to DC Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee. The officials who have resigned have come under heavy scrutiny amid reports that they did not act to call for the National Guard swiftly enough, as the mob overran the building with the vice president and members of the House and Senate inside.

While the struggle to agree on specific rules for the new commission continues to face a back and forth that has turned political, the hearings today will continue forward, despite the lack of agreement in the House. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who chairs the administration panel explained the necessity of moving quickly on gathering testimony saying, “it’s important to get the information out under oath as soon as possible.”

Klobuchar also said she supports the process of forming a 9/11-type commission in the House, and the Senate will proceed now to assist in gathering intel. “Decisions have to be made about the Capitol, sooner rather than later,” said the senator. These oversight hearings on the failures of Capitol security will be the first in a series, and have been organized by Sens. Klobuchar and Gary Peters, (D-MI), who is the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Both Democrats are working in conjunction with their Republican counterparts on each committee, Senators Roy Blunt (R-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), to organize the series of inquiries.

A Trump supporter enters the US Capitol's Rotunda on January 6, 2021, and stands next to a statue (that he has dressed in Trump paraphernalia) of former President Gerald Ford for photo in Washington, DC. (Photo by Saul Loeb/ via Getty Images)

While the US Senate moves forward with collecting the testimony of key players involved in securing the building, the negotiations over the details of the proposed commission in the House of Representatives have hit a few partisan speed bumps. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has proposed a scenario where each of the top four congressional leaders would nominate two members for the commission, and President Biden would name three members. One of Biden’s three selections will chair the commission and will be chosen in a joint decision with Congressional Democrats — the chair would have universal subpoena power.

This would mean that Democrats would have a total of seven appointees, Republicans would get four that were chosen by GOP leaders, and the Democratically appointed chairperson would ultimately control who would be subpoenaed by the commission. Pelosi has also suggested that the committee work to complete a “set of findings” on the Jan. 6 attack that would then guide the inquiry process with two specific caveats: the empaneled commission would conclude it’s tenure at the end of this year, and Donald Trump would not be named in the findings. This last clause was likely included to make the entire offer more palatable for Republicans.

A mob of Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol building and entered the US Senate chamber on Jan 6. 2021, in Washington DC. (Photo by Tom Williams/via Getty Images)

The proposal has been met with several objections by Republicans, who argue that if the intent was to form a commission modeled after the 9/11 version, then it needs to be evenly divided between appointees from both sides, rather than favoring one side in terms of empaneled commissioners. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has already issued a statement expressing early GOP requirements. “A commission should follow the guidance of Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton to be ‘both independent and bipartisan,’ said McCarthy, “and to preserve that integrity it must be evenly split between both parties.”

Republican leaders in the House are expected to submit a counter-offer soon that will no doubt attempt to push a closer split in appointees from both parties and it is likely that they will not accept subpoena power resting solely within Democratic control. Meanwhile, the Senate begins to take testimony today at 10:00 am/ ET and you can watch it live on your local CSpan network, CSpan online or through CBS affiliate WUSA online here. Stay tuned.

Share SHERO


Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at avanderpool@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.

Make a SHERO Tribute

Paid subscriptions and one-time tributes embedded in each article, allow me to keep publishing critical and informative work like this, that is often made available to the public — thank you. If you like this piece and you want to further support independent journalism, you can forward this article to others, get a paid subscription or gift subscription or donate once, as much as you like today.

Share

Inside the Beltway

Welcome to your exclusive briefing on to expect in the world of politics this week, with a quick glance at everything we will be monitoring here at SHERO.

Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on February 29, 2020 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/via Getty Images)

Share

US Nears 500,000 Covid Deaths

President Joe Biden (right) and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (left) tour a Pfizer manufacturing site in Portage, Michigan on Feb. 19, 2021. (Photo by Evan Vucci/via Associated Press)
  • Johns Hopkins University estimates that approximately 498,000 lives have been lost a year into the pandemic. This is roughly the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and just shy of the size of Atlanta. The number of Covid deaths now surpasses the total of people who died in 2019 of chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, flu and pneumonia combined.

  • “It’s nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on Sunday.

  • President Biden will marking the tragic milestone with a moment of silence and candle lighting ceremony at the White House on Monday at sunset — he will deliver remarks to honor the dead. He will be joined by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff.

  • The Biden administration will likely reach the initial goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses in the first 100 days in office, but now there is an increased push to vaccinate all eligible adults against the coronavirus by the end of the summer. Limited supply of the two approved vaccines, by Pfizer and Moderna, had slightly slowed the vaccination pace before the extreme winter weather hit last week, further delaying the delivery of about 6 million doses.

  • A third approved vaccine in the US is expected in the next few weeks, and the one-shot dose could help the country break through and surpass vaccine rate predictions.

    Make a SHERO Tribute

Texas in Crisis

  • More than 35 people in Texas have been confirmed dead following a week of severe winter storm freezes and that number is expected to rise as roads are cleared and relatives and first responders being to check on the missing.

  • Hospitals across the South have struggled with water shortages and scrambled to care for patients amid record cold temperatures, snow and ice that battered parts of the country accustomed to warmer weather. Texas is dealing with ruptured water mains, knocked out power to millions and exorbitant utility bills that customers are unable to pay.

  • The state now faces scrutiny over the failure to handle the emergency in light of it being the nation’s biggest energy producer and home to several of the world’s biggest energy companies.

  • Texas leaders are under fire for the disaster this week resulting from decades of opposition to more regulations and preparation. The state of Texas operates as a lone island within the sea of the US electrical system. There is one large grid for the Eastern half of the country, and another for the West — Texas is wedged between them. 

  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) is under further attack for traveling to Cancun while his constituents suffered through a deadly winter storm that left hundreds of thousands without power and running water.  This now poses a “scandal durability” question for the ramshackle Republican Party, as many speculate about whether voters will remember the egregiousness of Cruz’s actions when his re-election bid is still three years off.

    Subscribe now

Big Week on the Hill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speak in the halls of Capitol Hill after Republicans and Democrats finally came to an agreement on the coronavirus relief bill last December. (Photo by Drew Angerer/via Getty Images)
  • Congress comes back from recess this week and President Biden’s new legislative agenda is about to be tested in the next few weeks, which will be crucial for Democrats.

  • The $1.9-trillion Covid relief package will go to the House floor this week and Speaker Pelosi will need to do everything in her power to move it through the chamber quickly and to a full House vote, which will likely occur on Saturday.Pelosi only has a five-seat cushion, meaning that if she loses six Democrats who don’t agree with the deal, there could be a problem.

  • If Democrats can get just one Republican to vote in favor of this Covid relief package, they will be able to make the claim that it passed with bi-partisan support. This would be disastrous for House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), so expect their caucus close and in line.

  • Minimum wage is the hot topic this week. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) issued a statement on Saturday saying he was “confident” that Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough would determine that raising minimum wage is permissible in a reconciliation package. Considering that she has previously found in favor of similar Republican moves, this appears to be an effort to exert public pressure to ramp up the pressure on MacDonough directly. 

  • Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) faces obstacles with opposition from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who adamantly oppose raising the minimum wage and just one “no” vote sinks the bill for Democrats in the Senate.

  • Pressure will be on Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to hold his caucus together in voting “no” on covid relief. Just one GOP member defecting to vote with Democrats would mean the unthinkable for Republicans — Pelosi could say the bill had passed with “bi-partisan support.”

  • Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) is expected to play a large role in keeping people in line as well. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will have a very easy time keeping his team in line to vote against the relief bill, meaning this vote in the Senate on covid relief will be another squeaker.

  • Expect the pace to pick up substantially on President Biden’s Cabinet confirmations — the current administration only has a fraction of nominees in place compared to Trump, Obama and George W. Bush one month into their presidencies.

  • Merrick Garland will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday and controversial nominee for Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, will go before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday. Biden nominee for Heath and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, will testify on Tuesday and Wednesday. Biden’s CIA and US Trade rep nominees will also have hearings this week.

  • The Senate will hold a cloture vote (nominees who’ve already been approved in committee but need full Senate approval) for Linda Thomas-Greenfield as US Ambassador to the United Nations and Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture. More Cabinet nominees are expected to reach the Senate floor for a cloture vote this week, and several are waiting in the wings as the process picks up the pace.

Give a gift subscription

Trump at CPAC

Donald Trump hugs the US flag on stage during the CPAC conference in 2019 on March 02, 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American Conservative Union hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference to discuss conservative agenda. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/via Getty Images)
  • Trump is expected to make his first major appearance since leaving the White House by speaking at CPAC on Sunday. He will address the conservative group as keynote of sorts, on the final day of the three-day event, which will run from February 25 to 28.

  • "He'll be talking about the future of the Republican party and the conservative movement," a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. The insider also explained that Trump is expected to take on Biden’s amnesty and border policies in an attempt to spin them as “disastrous.”

  • Since leaving the White House, Trump is said to be “unreachable” and has rejected meetings with several prominent Republicans; but this is about to change. He is preparing to combine his two roles of reality TV star with former president and will begins to audition people to avenge him against the Republican Party — by ensuring every open GOP seat in the 2022 midterms has a MAGA-approved contender vying for it.

  • Look for Sunday to be the day that Trump not only returns to the scene, but launches his renewed strike against anyone who opposes him, which now includes several old guard Republicans and is a battle we can expect go on for the next few years.

    Share SHERO


    Subscribe now

    Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at avanderpool@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.

    Make a SHERO Tribute

    Paid subscriptions and one-time tributes embedded in each article, allow me to keep publishing critical and informative work like this, that is often made available to the public — thank you. If you like this piece and you want to further support independent journalism, you can forward this article to others, get a paid subscription or gift subscription or donate once, as much as you like today.

Houston, We Have an Oath Keepers Problem

While investigations into the Jan 6th attack on the US Capitol produce several arrests and more leads, one thing has become apparent - the Proud Boys aren't the only domestic terrorist game in town.

A man, who has obscured his face and identifying features and who wears an Oath Keepers badge on a protective vest, stands watch during a protest outside the Supreme Court on Jan. 5, 2021 in Washington DC, just one day before the Capitol insurrection incited by then President Trump. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/via Getty Images)

When Donald Trump stood on the stage for a nationally televised Presidential Debate last September and was asked by moderator Chris Wallace to disavow white supremacy by urging alt-right militant groups to"stand down," Trump notably responded with: "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” Then, Trump proceeded to pivot to the perils presented by Antifa, and inaccurately blame primarily peaceful protestors for the racially-stoked violence in America.

“I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about Antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem-this is a left-wing problem.” Trump never denounced any far-right or white supremacist groups that night. Instead, “stand by” was the crux of the message — and it was left lingering in the air as America’s next big national security problem was officially given a name.

The Proud Boys heeded that call. On the account for the organization on the social media app Telegram, the white nationalist group confirmed that Trump’s statement constituted their next marching orders. "Standing down and standing by sir," the account wrote. Trump’s public ‘shout-out’ to the militant extremists constituted what Megan Squire, a professor at Elon University who tracks online extremism, calls a long-sought ‘fantasy.’

Protestors from the Oath Keepers militant group protest gun limitations and oppose proposed local and federal gun control legislation that further limit any firearm restrictions on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at the Minnesota State Capitol. . (Photo by Education Universal Images Group/via Getty Images)

Even worse: it fueled other domestic terrorist organizations in America to strive to prove themselves to Trump, and garner the same attention and recognition that the Proud Boys had just triumphantly achieved. Telling the Proud Boys to “stand by” was Trump’s call to take up arms and get ready, and it was the direct spark from the racism flint that would smolder for months and later ignite a bonfire at the US Capitol.

With the new attention awarded to the Proud Boys last fall, came an intense competition among white nationalist tribes — a fascist, violent Olympics of sorts — and the gold medal was Donald Trump’s public recognition. The Oath Keepers is one such group — yet another contingent of military rejects, turned misguided soldiers, that erroneously believe they are not, and have never been prioritized. While the Oath Keepers have been primarily overlooked when compared to the level of notoriety achieved by the Proud Boys, they now seem to be taking a prominent role, showing no signs of slowing.

Earlier this month, SHERO reported on the connection between Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and a very active chapter of the Oath Keepers militia group in Yavapai County, Arizona. Jim Arroyo, the self-described leader of Chino Oath Keepers that is based in Prescott, Arizona, has created a video and podcast hub that relays the outlandish theories of the group as well as their plans to take back their rightful place of prominence in America’s economy. It is comprised of YouTube videos and radio shows that can be likened to an old-school public broadcasting station.

A member of the right-wing group Oath Keepers stands in front of the Supreme Court on Jan. 5, 2021, during a rally just one day before the attack on the US Capitol. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/via Getty Images)

The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Center on Extremism (COE) has identified 212 of the roughly 800 individuals who are believed to have breached the US Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. According to the ADL, “the emerging snapshot of the insurrectionists shows a range of right-wing extremists united by their fury with the perceived large-scale betrayal by “unprincipled” Republican legislators.”

While the ADL has confirmed that six Oath Keepers participated in the Capitol attack, The New York Times estimates that additional members were actually involved. In addition to the three confirmed Oath Keepers leaders who have been arrested so far, The Times claims there were at least 10 other members who accompanied them, coordinated the plan and wore Oath Keepers insignia.

On Jan 8, 2021, a Grand Jury handed down indictments for Thomas Caldwell, Donovan Crowl and Jessica Watkins on charges relating to their alleged crimes at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. On February 19, Sandra Parker, Bennie Parker, Graydon Young, Laura Steele, Kelly Meggs and Connie Meggs were added as co-defendants to the superseding indictment in federal court. All of those named have been arrested and charged with crimes relating to conspiracy, obstruction, destruction of government property, trespassing and tampering.

The COE arm of the ADL has identified 212 individuals, and 52 (or 25 percent) of those who were identified in the Capitol riot have ties to known right-wing extremist groups. The remaining 75 percent of the 212 are considered to be part of the new pro-Trump extremist movement, a decentralized faction made up of self-described “patriots,” who continue to pledge their fidelity to Trump. Put simply: the remaining 75 percent espouse the same values as those who have pledged allegiance to specific white nationalist organizations, and are up for grabs in terms of a formal affiliation. This means there is still a lot of room for growth in the alt-right.

An Oath Keeper from Idaho attends an event in Bozeman, Montana. The "Oath Keepers" are a national, ultra-rightwing "Patriot" group comprised of former and active military, police and public safety personnel who have taken an oath to "uphold the Constitution" and to refuse to follow orders that they decide are unconstitutional. (Photo by William Campbell/via Getty Images)

These lone Trump supporters, who are clearly willing to step outside of legal boundaries for their cause, are also capable of forming new groups as the movement progresses and evolves. In other words, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers continue to be a security threat on their own, and are now spawning offspring that are capable of mutating to fit the new landscape of this post-Trump era.

Another concerning aspect of these anti-government military groups is that so many of their active members are or were embedded within law enforcement at the local, state and national level. Thomas Cowell, one of the three Oath Keepers who has already been arrested and charged, held a top-secret security clearance for decades and previously worked for the FBI as a section chief from 2009 to 2010, after retiring from the Navy.

Trump supporters storm the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 in an effort to stop Congress from counting the electoral votes that would formally declare Joe Biden to be the winner of the 2020 Presidential Election. (Photo by Brent Stirton/via Getty Images)

Following the Capitol riot, an Orange County Police Officer’s apartment was searched by the FBI, after he was suspected of participating in the far-right insurrection on Jan 6. The Orange County (OC) Sheriff’s Department, which currently serves thirteen contract cities and a total population of over 3 million people, is already in the process of implementing a training program on far-right extremism, after an OC Sheriff’s Officer was identified in a protest skirmish wearing a far-right Oath Keepers patch last summer.

Another investigation has now shown that at least six people who had provided security for Roger Stone broke the law by entering the Capitol on Jan. 6. Stone, the longtime friend of Donald Trump, who was recently pardoned by the former president after being indicted on charges for lying to federal agents, was present in Washington, DC at the time for Trump’s rally. He posted a message online denying involvement in “the lawless acts at the Capitol,” but these six suspects in question who were at the riot, were confirmed to have provided security protection for Stone either the day before or after the attack. All six suspects are also associated with the Oath Keepers organization.

While many Oath Keepers members are currently in custody and facing decades in prison if convicted on the federal charges related to the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, the ongoing investigations have done little to slow the group’s momentum. Stewart Rhodes, the national leader for the Oath Keepers militia group appears to have been emboldened by the previous actions and resulting charges for his fellow white nationalist comrades.

Stewart Elmer Rhodes, the National Leader of the Oath Keepers militia, provides security during a pro-Donald Trump rally to protest the cancellation of Ann Coulter’s speaking engagement, that was held in Martin Luther King Civic Center Park in Berkeley, California on April 27, 2017. (Photo by by Philip Pacheco/via Getty Images)

Rhodes appeared with Alex Jones on his Infowars webcast on January 30 — just 24 days after the riot at the Capitol that left five dead, including a police officer. Rhodes continued to peddle Trump’s propaganda of a rigged election and claimed the election was illegitimate, which was an issue that Trump’s own attorneys would not touch while defending him in his last impeachment trial. Rhodes continued in his quest of provocation: "You gotta to [sic] declare everything that comes out of King Biden's mouth as illegitimate — null and void from the inception because he is not a legitimate president." 

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the dangers posed by the Oath Keepers movement, which shows little sign of losing any traction or momentum, was Rhodes’ next statement that issued warnings about “365 million armed patriots ready to ‘rise up.’" Rhodes continued,"There is going to be resistance. The only question is what will be the spark." Then he launched what could be perceived as a direct and lingering threat: "[Leftists] keep pushing…Let them be the ones who draw first blood-then you defend." 

Share


Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at avanderpool@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.

Share SHERO

Paid subscriptions and one-time tributes embedded in each article, allow me to keep publishing critical and informative work that is sometimes made available to the public — thank you. If you like this piece and you want to further support independent journalism, you can forward this article to others, get a paid subscription or gift subscription, or donate once through the tribute options above. Thank you for your support! 

Loading more posts…