Pelosi calls for Capitol Police chief to resign after deadly riots


Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the resignation of Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and said that House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving will be resigning after the massive security breach of the Capitol on Wednesday by pro-Trump rioters.

spokeswoman for Sund said earlier he has no plans to step down.


Top security officials in Congress are facing swift fallout over the embarrassing and deadly security breach of the Capitol by President Donald Trump’s supporters.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he will fire Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Mike Stenger when Democrats take the majority later this month after the pro-Trump riots in the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.

“If Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Stenger hasn't vacated the position by then, I will fire him as soon as Democrats have a majority in the Senate," Schumer said in a statement to POLITICO.

Stenger and House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving are both under pressure to step down after the deadly and embarrassing breach of security.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said ultimate blame lies with "unhinged criminals" that desecrated the Capitol, but nonetheless suggested that the Congress would have to address the "shocking failures in the Capitol’s security posture and protocols.”

McConnell's office has not yet commented on Stenger.

The House and Senate sergeants-at-arms are on the most immediate chopping block, according to multiple sources in both parties. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund will also face intense scrutiny. And President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration could see changes.

“The Capitol Police will and should really do a quick review here of what went wrong and what they need to do to be sure nothing like that could happen again,” Senate Rules Chair Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters early Thursday. “You want to take one more really hard look at what you thought your crowd security concerns might be for Jan. 20.”

Eva Malecki, a spokesperson for the Capitol police, said: "the Chief has no plans to step down.

The change with Stenger could happen sooner than the shift of power on Jan. 20, according to sources. Irving, the House sergeant-at-arms since 2012, is also under intense scrutiny and is expected to be pressured to step down following the rioting and violence that took place inside the Capitol Wednesday.

McConnell and Speaker Nancy Pelosi had no immediate comment. Sund put out a statement saying that the Capitol Police had a “robust plan” for demonstrators, “but make no mistake — these riots were not First Amendment activities."

The frustration was evident as senators gathered in a secure room in the Capitol complex on late Wednesday. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) briefly but pointedly dressed down sergeant-at-arms staff about the unprecedented security breach in the Capitol, according to two sources familiar with the conversation.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), the House Democrat who oversees funding for the Capitol police, told reporters there would be swift fallout from the deadly security breach.

Ryan praised the rank-and-file Capitol police for doing “everything they could” to hold back the mob but said higher ranking officials will be taken to task and likely fired. At least 15 police officers were hospitalized due to the chaos with one in critical condition, according to Ryan.

“For us not to have an expeditious plan – the breach happened at 1 hour and 15 minutes of the Capitol police being able to hold off the mob,” Ryan told reporters Thursday. “You can be assured that somebody’s going to be held responsible for this.”

And Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ryan’s counterpart in the Senate, said “we need a full investigation on how the Capitol's security was breached this quickly.”

“Being outnumbered, ill-equipped, and unprepared is not the fault of officers, rather the responsibility of their superiors,” Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), who was among those in the chamber as rioters breached the Capitol, said via text message Thursday morning. “Yesterday's security failure was preventable, inexcusable and requires a full investigation and the removal of those responsible from their positions.”

The House floor was buzzing with talk of immediate firings Wednesday night as lawmakers gathered to restart certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Lawmakers did not coalesce around a specific plan but generally agreed that there needed to be swift leadership changes both within the Capitol Police, including Sund, and the Sergeant-at-Arms offices, according to multiple sources familiar with the conversations.

Ryan and House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) on Thursday announced an investigation of the Capitol Police failures that led to Wednesday’s mob-rule.

Rioters stormed the Capitol, crashing through glass windows and busting down doors, invading some of the most secure areas of the Capitol, including the Senate chamber and Pelosi’s office. Ryan said he was disturbed by videos from Wednesday that appeared to show Capitol police opening the barriers to allow the rioters onto Capitol grounds and then later freely leave the Capitol after destroying it. One woman was shot and killed inside the complex during the chaos.

The sergeant-at-arms has more than 800 employees who oversee security of the Capitol, congressional office buildings and staff, while the Capitol Police has 2,300 employees and officers.

During other moments like Trump’s impeachment or the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the security and law enforcement presence inside the building was pronounced, but at times on Thursday there were barren halls turned over to the rioters. And not until the trespassers were expelled from the Capitol did the number of officers reach overwhelming levels.

"It was unfathomable,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told MetroNews in West Virginia on Thursday. “I think it was the lowest day."

Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.

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Dems fear grueling primary could boost Trump

Democrats are settling in for a long and brutal presidential primary season that could conclude at the Democratic National Convention in July, raising fears that five more months of party infighting could boost the prospects of President Donald Trump.

It’s not that Democrats don’t like their options. But none of the top candidates are showing any signs of budging and “the number of candidates is” working to Trump's advantage right now, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who supports former Vice President Joe Biden.

“We’ll ultimately have a presumptive nominee fairly late. I think it could [help Trump]. It really makes it more difficult because it’s just harder to organize,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who is neutral in the race. “Just literally organizing an operation on the ground is hard to do quickly.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has established himself as the early frontrunner but makes party insiders nervous, particularly House Democrats who are fretting about how the top of the ticket will affect their majority. A clear alternative to Sanders hasn’t emerged and may not for weeks given the late entry into the campaign of Michael Bloomberg.

And the field remains crowded: Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are competing for the left; Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Bloomberg are competing for the center and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is trying to bridge the gap.

“If the Democrats are not united, then a strategy of winning the Electoral College could work for the president,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who has not endorsed a candidate. “The calendar is: We could be doing this in July. And there could be hard feelings afterward. You saw that in 2016. We were not as united as we needed to be. So I worry about that.”

The muddle has left congressional Democrats trying to win the Senate and keep the House increasingly anxious. Majorities of both House and Senate Democrats haven’t yet endorsed, adding to the confusion and evoking the paralysis of Republicans in 2016 as Trump surged ahead of a crowded field.

Some Democrats think the anxiety might not be such bad thing. Despite his divisive rhetoric and generally low approval ratings, Trump is an incumbent president and presides over a good economy. And after the party’s certainty that Trump was a terrible candidate in 2016 and Hillary Clinton would waltz to victory, a bit of a freak-out might be warranted.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) speaks with reporters about health care on Capitol Hill, October 24, 2017 in Washington, DC.

“Primaries make people nervous. Primaries are the most painful races in politics,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who is unaffiliated and said any of the frontrunners could beat Trump. “It is a better state of mind for all of us to be paranoid and motivated rather than overconfident and just checking 538 every 45 minutes.”

But it could be a lengthy state of paranoia, particularly with centrists grasping for a Sanders alternative. Biden’s backers are eager to see him perform in more diverse states after weak performances in Iowa and New Hampshire. Bloomberg is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to compete in later states. Buttigieg has shown surprising staying power.

And both Klobuchar and Warren said in brief interviews Thursday that they’re taking a long view. When asked if the race could go all the way to the convention in Milwaukee, Warren said: “It may go that long.”

“It’s likely to be a long primary process. And fortunately, we’ve built our campaign for the long haul,” Warren said.

“It’s just the beginning of the race. There’s only been two states!” Klobuchar said. She laughed when asked if Biden should drop out: “I’m running my own campaign. So that’s all I’m doing. Strong.”

Congressional Republicans are enjoying the chaos. Not only could it help their chances in November, but for once, the focus is off of their constant tension with Trump, whose recent controversies include intervening in Roger Stone’s sentencing, ousting impeachment witnesses and attacking senators.

Now the biggest story is an increasingly ugly Democratic primary, the prospect of a contested convention and a bruised general election candidate.

“The confusion they’re experiencing on their side … the perception of chaos, I think that absolutely works to the president’s benefit,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican.

Even apart from the primary, Democrats are coming to the realization that Trump will be difficult to topple. His base will not abandon him and as an incumbent, he’s the frontrunner by default.

“Yeah, right now he is. He’s the incumbent,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

And the party’s divisive nomination fight may only strengthen Trump’s hand.

Most Senate Democrats are expressing confidence that anyone from Sanders to Bloomberg can beat Trump, and few of them buy into the idea that Sanders will be a disaster. Senate Democrats also don’t appear worried about any down-ballot consequences; only a couple incumbents are expected to face tough races at the moment.

“Democrats are always panicking. And it’s too early to panic,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

But the alarm about Sanders and the potential threat to the House majority is palpable on the other side of the Capitol.

“I’m a liberal, so I like Bernie and I don’t have anything against him. I’m just a realist,” said Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), who has backed Bloomberg. “The reality is, he’s not going to play well. And Trump will easily be able to label him as a socialist… and we’re going to get absolutely wiped out.”

Sanders pushed back against the growing sense from House Democrats that he will cost Speaker Nancy Pelosi the gavel. He said his campaign will increase turnout and give other candidates on the ticket a boost.

And he said the disaffected Trump voter will come his way.

“We are the campaign that's going to bring disenchanted alienated working-class people back into the political process and once again make the Democratic Party a party of working people,” Sanders said at the Capitol Thursday. “If we're going to beat Trump we need a very, very large voter turnout.”

Democrats won back the House in 2018 by flipping more than three dozen Republican seats — and many of those same Democrats don’t buy Sanders’ rationale. As Biden has stumbled — initially the favorite choice for many moderate and black Democrats — Bloomberg has stepped in to fill the vacuum, racking up several House endorsements in the last week.

Biden still far outpaces other Democratic candidates in terms of congressional support, but several House lawmakers have privately discussed coming out for Bloomberg sooner rather than later as a strategy to try to blunt Sanders’ rise.

Sanders’ surrogates, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have been quick to fire back, lashing Bloomberg on his controversial policies as mayor of New York City, including stop-and-frisk.

But when asked what the progressive firebrand is telling her centrist colleagues who are nervous about a Sanders nomination, Ocasio-Cortez quickly pivoted to a message of party unity.

“There is no one candidate that is going to defeat Donald Trump,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters. “It needs to be a movement of Americans and everyone coming together in rejection of this chaos and lack of rule of law. And we need to be bigger than that, all of us need to be bigger than that.”

Of course eventually, there will just be one name on the ballot against Trump. And Democrats are hoping that after a grueling winter and spring primary season, that person will be ready to go toe-to-toe with one of the most combative politicians in history.

“Running against Trump is going to be a meat grinder and so you should prove that you can survive a meat grinder,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “It’s important for us to have a really messy, highly contested primary process in order to make sure we’re nominating the toughest, most ready candidate to run against him.”

Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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