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Men Testifying In Hearing All Say U.S. Capitol Attack Was Premeditated

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Hour after hour, in testimony that was sometimes dense, senators and witnesses discussed everything from protective gear for officers to communications between law enforcement agencies to what can be done to prevent future attacks.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And we're going to talk about all of that with NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis.

Hey there, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey there.

KELLY: So this was the first Senate hearing on the January 6 attack. What did we actually learn that is new?

DAVIS: Well, I think there was a couple of main takeaways that all four of the men who testified today agreed upon. First is they all agreed that it was largely a premeditated attack, that it wasn't a spontaneous outburst that occurred that day. And they all agreed that white supremacist groups were key players in the attack. All four did point the finger to intelligence failures as maybe the critical reason the Capitol Police were so unprepared that day, and they said that they had no information from the intelligence community that the Capitol itself could be attacked. Former police chief Steven Sund testified that they were holding meetings with intelligence agencies right up to the day before the attack.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVEN SUND: No entity, including the FBI, provided any new intelligence regarding January 6.

DAVIS: Now, as you noted, it was revealed later after the January 6 attack that an FBI office in Norfolk the night before did send via email a report that suggested there could be violence aimed at lawmakers in the building. But none of the top law enforcement officials charged with protecting the Capitol ever saw it.

KELLY: Now, there was one significant discrepancy that emerged among the officers who testified today. Explain their disagreement.

DAVIS: So Sund and former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving - and, again, both of these men resigned after the attack - they're at odds over a critical point in the timeline about this delay for the National Guard troops being sent in to help. Sund testified repeatedly - and recall everyone was under oath today...

KELLY: Yeah.

DAVIS: ...That he called Irving at 1:09 p.m., a very specific time that day, to ask him to call in the National Guard. He said Irving told him he'd have to run it up the chain, and the request ultimately didn't go out until about an hour later. Irving countertestified that he never received any such call and has the phone records to back it up. Now, several senators indicated they want to have some clarity on this point. They've asked both men to turn over their phone records to the committee. They did, however, agree on something - that later that day, at that 2 o'clock phone call, that there was the army. There was hesitation from the army to send in the guard. And Robert Contee's the acting police chief for Washington, D.C. He was on the call when Sund made the request to the army, which was not immediately authorized.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBERT CONTEE: I was just stunned that, you know, I have officers that were out there literally fighting for their lives. And, you know, we're kind of going through, you know, what seemed like an exercise to really check the boxes, and it was not an immediate response.

DAVIS: Now, the request was eventually approved, but recall the guard troops didn't arrive on the scene until several hours after the Capitol was breached.

KELLY: All right. Are senators already starting to lay out what they may be looking at in terms of reforms to prevent anything like this from ever happening again?

DAVIS: Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of things being talked about. Obviously, intelligence sharing and the failures is something that's going to be looked at extensively. Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar said Congress really needs to look at this role of the Capitol Police Board. It's the governing board that makes these security decisions. It's a four-member board, and there's a broad sense that it needs to be changed and sort of the chain of command and who gets to decide what.

She's also said there'll likely be - need to be changes, physical changes to Capitol security. A lot of that's going to be classified. We probably won't know what those will be. But there has been recommendations from several involved to put up more secure fencing around the building. This is something that's been suggested and resisted for years, especially after the 9/11 attack. Lawmakers just really don't like the look of it or the message it sends. They want the building to be accessible to the public.

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Gary Peters also highlighted what he sees as a bigger structural problem - that the U.S. intelligence apparatus is really just geared towards this post-9/11 mindset, focused on foreign threats. And he said that that attitude needs to be entirely reworked to look at domestic threats, specifically white supremacy extremism and that he said as the new chairman of that committee, he's going to make that a specific focus of his.

KELLY: I was just going to say it's so familiar to those of us...

DAVIS: Yeah.

KELLY: ...Who covered 9/11 and the aftermath - this debate over intelligence sharing and how to get it right. Real quick, Sue, more hearings - are there plans for more in the works?

DAVIS: There will be. Klobuchar already announced that this joint committee effort will hold its second hearing next week. They're going to hear from officials at the FBI, Homeland Security and the Defense Department. Obviously, they want to get their side about this - intelligence failures and exactly why the National Guard was delayed.

KELLY: Thank you, Sue.

DAVIS: You're welcome.

DAVIS: NPR's Sue Davis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.