WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned Robert J. Contee III, Acting Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police and Steven A. Sund, Former Capitol Chief of Police about the role of intelligence on violent extremist activity leading up to the January 6th insurrection, as well as the threat of future attacks. A transcript of the Senator’s full exchange can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found here.
ROSEN: I’d like to start off by expressing that my thoughts are with the brave Capitol Police Officers who put their lives on the line to protect us on January 6. Their heroic actions, like the ones of [Officer] Eugene Goodman, who redirected violent rioters away from us, will forever be embedded in our minds. We know that so many of these courageous men and women are really hurting in the aftermath of the insurrection. I’ve been particularly heartbroken to hear about the death of Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood, who has been protecting the Senate since 2005. He was often stationed at a door near my office in Russell. My prayers are with his family and loved ones.
When the insurrectionists came to storm our Capitol on January 6th, they came armed not only with weapons, but also with hate. Mere weeks before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the world watched with horror as a rioter inside the Capitol proudly wore a “Camp Auschwitz” shirt as he and others violently pushed forward toward the House and Senate floors. All the while, rioters were waving Confederate flags, hanging a noose on the [capitol] front lawn, and verbally assaulting a Jewish reporter outside the Capitol, saying “you are cattle today.” That’s referring to the cattle cars used to transport Jews to Nazi death camps during the Holocaust. This violent attack on the Capitol also featured several followers of the anti-Semitic QAnon conspiracy theory.
Mr. Contee, on January 4th, the MPD arrested Enrique Tarrio, leader of the racist, anti-Semitic Proud Boys hate group. The FBI claims that the next day, it shared with MPD concrete intelligence about extremist plans for violence on January 6, including specific threats against members of Congress, and maps of the tunnels under the Capitol Complex. If MPD was tracking extremist, potentially violent white supremacist activity, then what exactly did you know as of Tuesday, January 5th, and why didn’t you alert anyone?
CONTEE: Thank you for that question. What the FBI said ma’am, on January 5th, was in the form of an email. I would certainly think that something as violent as an insurrection in the Capitol would warrant a phone call or something. But, as Chief Sund mentioned earlier, the information that was sent was uncorroborated information. It was raw. The information that we received through the same lines – through the JTTF [Joint Terrorism Task Forces] – that information was not fully vetted and had not been sent through the chains of the Metropolitan Police Department. What the Metropolitan Police Department was prepared for was the larger violence and demonstrations that we expected to see in our city.
ROSEN: I have to ask Mr. Sund the same question now. What did you know as of Tuesday night, January 5th, because I have a follow-up for both of you on this. So, quickly Mr. Sund, what did you know on January 5th, and were you alarmed or not alarmed? What did you expect?
SUND: Yeah, I was concerned. We had the intelligence that was coming out, the intelligence we were planning for. Again, keep in mind the intelligence assessments that we had developed at the end of December and the one for January 3rd were very similar. They just provided a little bit more specificity. So we had been planning for the threat for violence, the threat for armed possible people protesting, and that’s what we were planning for. Now, if you’re referring to the Norfolk letter, again, I just became aware of that – the department was aware of that – 24 hours ago. So, on the 6th, or the 5th, or the 4th [of January], I was not aware that memo existed.
ROSEN: So, you’re saying there’s a breakdown between you and the FBI? Because, we have rallies, protests, and things happening in Washington all the time. Could both of you just maybe give a guess how many [D.C. event attendees] do you think are armed insurrectionists, or come heavily armed out of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of rallies that we see in Washington through the year?
CONTEE: We know of the last three incidents. The first two MAGA rallies. Men and women of the Metropolitan Police Department recovered firearms from several people who were attending the demonstrations at the first MAGA rally as well as the second one. Aside from that, those have been really the only demonstrations where we’ve seen individuals coming armed.
ROSEN: Well, do you think this was an intelligence breakdown or a resource issue?
CONTEE: I think that the intelligence did not make it where it needed to be.
ROSEN: So, you think the FBI did not raise this to the level they needed to with the Metropolitan Police Department in your mind?
CONTEE: We received it in the form of an email that came as an alert bulletin at 7 o’clock p.m. the day before. Again, I think it’s reflective of our deployment in terms of the National Guard that was deployed there, but as well as other officers from surrounding jurisdictions. That reflected the seriousness that we took with respect to the threats that we were expecting to see in this city.
ROSEN: Mr. Sund, can you tell me, do you think this was a resource issue, or an intelligence breakdown, or something else? If you’ll be brief because this is very important.
SUND: Yes ma’am, I’ll be very brief. It was part of my introduction. I think it was more than just the Norfolk letter. I think we need to look at the whole entire intelligence community and the view they have on some of the domestic extremists and the effect that they have. I look at this as an intelligence problem that impacted this event, yes.
ROSEN: So, what information would you had to have heard for you to have raised up the flag to get more resources for the Capitol police, because we saw a loss of life, and thank goodness there wasn’t more, but one is too many. So, what is your threshold? What should be the threshold to protect the Capitol and to protect your officers?
SUND: I did in advance reach out to the Washington D.C. police to coordinate resources, and I did go to both the House and Senate Sergeant at Arms to request the National Guard.
ROSEN: Mr. Contee, I think I have five seconds, we can take this off the record, but, I believe there is some plan by QAnon for something to happen to the Capitol on March 4th, I want to hear what steps we’re taking to protect the Capitol on March 4th from any more violent extremists.