The Department of Justice warns that pro-Trump rioters who swept past police and ran amok inside the Capitol on Wednesday may have stolen national security secrets from House offices.
When thousands of supporters of President Trump amassed at barricades outside the building in Washington, D.C., Capitol Police were badly outnumbered. As protesters stormed by, many officers remained at the barricades to hold the line, leaving the interior of the Capitol largely unguarded.
Social media soon exploded with pictures of rioters at the desks of high-ranking members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. There, they reportedly had access to classified documents, computers, and phones.
“Items, electronic items were stolen from senators’ offices, documents and … we have to identify what was done to mitigate that,” said Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, according to the Daily Mail.
“The prosecutor said an investigation could take ‘several days to flesh out exactly what happened, what was stolen, what wasn’t.'”
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), meanwhile, said at least one laptop had been stolen from his office, while one rioter was photographed flaunting pieces of Pelosi’s mail outside the Capitol.
The Senate Parliamentarian’s office was also ransacked, leaving the floor strewn with documents and other materials taken from drawers and cabinets.
On Thursday evening, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund resigned after facing public pressure from Speaker Pelosi and incoming Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also demanded the resignation of the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate, Michael Stenger, effective immediately. Stenger and Paul Irving, the longtime Sergeant at Arms of the House, have both since resigned.
“There was a failure of leadership at the top,” Pelosi said.
Now, federal lawmakers are pledging to investigate the response of law enforcement agencies during Wednesday’s breach.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, said the breach of the Capitol “raises grave security concerns.” She said her committee will work with other House and Senate lawmakers to evaluate not only the U.S. Capitol Police response but its preparedness.
Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), a former Orlando police chief who was on the short list to become President-elect Joe Biden’s running mate, said it was “painfully obvious” that Capitol Police “were not prepared for today.”
“I certainly thought that we would have had a stronger show of force, that there would have been steps taken in the very beginning to make sure that there was a designated area for the protesters in a safe distance from the Capitol,” she said in an interview on MSNBC Wednesday. Demings added that the Capitol Police “did not seem” as if they had “a clear operational plan to really deal with” the mass of protesters.
Demings said there were “a lot of unanswered questions and I’m damn determined to get answers to those questions about what went wrong today.”
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) went further, saying heads should roll.
“I think it’s pretty clear that there’s going to be a number of people who are going to be without employment very, very soon because this is an embarrassment both on behalf of the mob, and the president, and the insurrection, and the attempted coup, but also the lack of professional planning and dealing with what we knew was going to occur,” Ryan said, according to The Associated Press.