National security officials testify about Jan. 6 attack on Capitol at Senate hearing

WASHINGTON — Two Senate committees will hear testimony Wednesday from national security officials about the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol as Congress ramps up its investigation into what unfolded that day.

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, Defense Department and Washington, D.C., National Guard will face questions from lawmakers on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

Major Gen. William J. Walker, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, will tell Congress on Wednesday that it took more than three hours to get the green-light from the acting secretary of defense to deploy troops to the Capitol after the Capitol Police chief made the urgent request on the afternoon of Jan. 6.

“At 1:49pm I received a frantic call from then chief of U.S. Capitol Police, Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter at the Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters,” Walker says in his prepared remarks. “Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated there was a dire emergency on Capitol Hill and requested the immediate assistance of as many Guardsmen as I could muster.”

Walker said he alerted the Army’s senior leadership of Sund’s request immediately after the phone call with the police chief.

“The approval for Chief Sund’s request would eventually come from the acting secretary of defense and be relayed to me by Army senior leaders at 5:08 p.m. — 3 hours and 19 minutes later,” he said.

Walker said they already had Guardsmen on buses ready to move to the Capitol, and at 5:20 p.m., less than 20 minutes after the Guard finally received permission to deploy, troops arrived at the building.

“We helped to re-establish the security perimeter at the east side of the Capitol to facilitate the resumption of the joint session of Congress,” Walker said. He doesn’t say in his opening remarks why it took hours to get the go-ahead from the federal government.

The other witnesses at the 10 a.m. ET hearing are Melissa Smislova, who is performing the duties of the undersecretary in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security; Jill Sanborn, assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division; and Robert Salesses, who is performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense focused on homeland defense and global security.

Salesses said in his opening statement that after the call between Capitol Police and the D.C. National Guard, and after speaking with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and her staff, then-Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy met with then-acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, at 2:30p.m. to discuss the Capitol Police and the mayor’s requests — more than 30 minutes after they were made.

Salesses said that at 3:04 p.m., acting Defense Secretary Miller “ordered the full mobilization” of the D.C. National Guard to provide support. Army Secretary McCarthy then directed the Guard personnel to initiate full mobilization.

Following a review of the plans for the support mission, the secretary of the Army got approval to from the Army secretary to deploy at 4:32 p.m. and ordered the D.C. National Guard forces to depart the Armory for the Capitol.

The official from the FBI, Sanborn, said the agency has received more than 200,000 digital media tips and more than 30,000 leads at its national threat operations center in its investigation of those involved in the assault.

“With this support, we have identified hundreds of people involved in the attack and arrested more than 300, with more and more arrests every day,” she said.

Smislova, the DHS official, said in her opening remarks that she is “deeply concerned that despite our best efforts, they did not lead to an operational response” to defend the Capitol.

The joint hearing comes a day after FBI Director Christopher Wray failed to offer much information about whether his intelligence analysts missed warning signs before the riot. Wray also repeatedly shot down claims by Republican allies of former President Donald Trump and others that antifa activists participated in the attack.

The two congressional panels held a first hearing last week examining the attack, where they heard testimony former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, former Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee.

The witnesses told lawmakers that they blamed the Jan. 6 attack on poor intelligence and a slow response from the federal government.

Separately on Wednesday, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman is set to testify before the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the legislative branch at a hearing about her agency’s budget.

Lawmakers on that subcommittee heard testimony from her last week about the riot, and they will likely use this as another opportunity to question her about what occurred.

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