Senate committees urge new security steps after Capitol riot

FILE PHOTO: Pro-Trump protesters storm into the U.S. Capitol during clashes with police, during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, U.S, Jan. 6, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Pro-Trump protesters storm into the U.S. Capitol during clashes with police, during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, U.S, Jan. 6, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo (Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)


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WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Two Senate committees assessing security at the U.S. Capitol in light of January's deadly attack recommended giving the Capitol Police chief greater authority on Tuesday and developing plans for rapid response by the Pentagon.

In a statement, U.S. Capitol Police welcomed the report and said it had already changed its operations planning to focus on national security, but continued to point to U.S. intelligence failures to warn of the attack.

During the Jan. 6 riot by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, the Pentagon spent hours assessing pleas for help from Capitol Police, the committees found in a bipartisan report. The violence left five dead.

When finally deployed by the Pentagon, D.C. National Guard troops did not arrive at the Capitol until about 5:20 p.m., nearly three hours after they were requested, and by which time the House and Senate chambers had already been declared secure.

The Senate Rules and Homeland Security committees in the report recommended empowering the Capitol Police chief to ask directly for D.C. National Guard help in an emergency. The current procedure requires the chief to get a Capitol Police Board emergency declaration first then Pentagon authorization, though board approval did not happen on Jan. 6.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat who chairs the rules committee, said she and Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., would introduce legislation to make the change.

A Senate aide said the committees found no evidence of foot-dragging at the White House that delayed the National Guard response.

The 95-page document noted that Trump encouraged his supporters to go to the Capitol. A copy of his speech was appended to the report, but it did not discuss his role.

The committee leaders acknowledged the report confined its focus to intelligence gathering, security preparations and emergency response. It did not explore the motivation for the attack.

The USCP, in its statement, reiterated its stance that it was prepared for a large demonstration but did not know "thousands of rioters were planning to attack," adding improvements were needed in intelligence analysis and distribution, both at the federal level and within its own force.

Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, told reporters the report was not intended to be a substitute for a bipartisan commission that could investigate further.

Late last month, Senate Republicans blocked legislation to set up a bipartisan commission that would have the power to force witnesses, possibly including Trump, to testify under oath about what happened that day. Republican opponents said the Senate committees' probe, as well as ongoing prosecutions, were enough investigation.

The Senate committees said they did not get all the information they had sought from several agencies.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell, additional reporting by Mark Hosenball, Idrees Ali and Susan Heavey; Editing by Scott Malone, Cynthia Osterman and Bernadette Baum)

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021

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