WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Thursday was the first of three days of the House Appropriations Subcommittee’s investigation into the security failures on the days leading up to — and on the day of — the Capitol insurrection on January 6. In his opening remarks, Congresswoman Tim Ryan (D-Oh) said the hearings are being held “so the Capitol doesn’t continue to be vulnerable” and that the insurrection was not a result of the lack of intelligence, but the failure to act on it.
The subcommittee questioned the House’s Acting Sergeant of Arms Timothy Blodgett and the Capitol Police Department’s Acting Chief of Police Yogananda Pittman, who was serving as assistant chief on January 6.
Pittman says the police department released four threat assessments ahead of January 6 that were “widely shared throughout the department.” By January 3, they determined that militia groups, white supremacists, and other extremists would be participating, and that “they were desperate” to overturn the election. In response, Pittman says the Capitol Police deployed agents across the District, deployed platoons, including three “hard” platoons (which are armed), and SWAT teams. It also enlarged its security perimeter.
She said the “department was not ignorant of the size and scale that occurred,” because “there was no such intelligence.” Pittman said the FBI “or any other partner” did not indicate a significant threat.”
In the wake of the insurrection, the Capitol Police found that the lockdown of the Capitol was not executed properly, officers were unsure of when to use force, and their radio communication wasn’t robust. Pittman said the police department is “reimplementing training in those areas,” but that those measures alone wouldn’t have stopped the threat they faced.
Photos of Capitol Police officers posing with insurrectionists went viral. Pittman testified that 35 officers are under investigation and six were suspended.
Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-Va) participated in the hearing. The former lawyer is no stranger to questioning witnesses — she said she felt like she was back in the courtroom when questioning Pittman. “She used a lot of terms like, ‘leaning forward’ and ‘all hands on deck’ but trying to pin her down to actually answer a question was pretty challenging. She did a lot of filibustering and not actually answering questions.”
Pittman formally acknowledged Officer Brian Sicknick’s death as a “line of duty” death. Sicknick died of the injuries he sustained while warding off rioters at the Capitol. But when Wexton asked Pittman if she would do the same for Officer Howard Liebengood, who took his own life three days after the riot, she said, “I can’t speak to that at this time, ma’am.”
“You’re not going to acknowledge that it is a result of the events on January 6 that Howard Liebengood is no longer with us?” Wexton asked.
“I cannot speak to it at this time,” Pittman said, claiming his death is still under investigation. Pittman told Wexton that death gratuity has been granted to both officers’ families.
Wexton also had questions about staffing on Capitol Hill. Pittman told Wexton that less than 700 officers are duty when Congress isn’t in session. Over 1,000 are on duty when Congress is in session. All 1,800 officers are on duty for special events, like the State of the Union address.
The Capitol Police deployed 1,400 officers on January 6. “You knew that you were going to have the first, second, and third officials in line for the presidency all at the same place at the same time, correct?” Wexton asked.
“Yes,” Pittman answered.
“So you would think that you would make it more along the lines of a State of the Union than an average day,” Wexton said.