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Contradicting Details Emerge In Congressional Probes Into Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We are learning new details about the January 6 insurrection, as Congress holds hearings about the attack. The acting Capitol Police chief told lawmakers today the head of her agency asked top officials for military backup half a dozen times in the first hour of the breach. Chief Yogananda Pittman said the requests were made as police were unprepared to face the rioters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YOGANANDA PITTMAN: There's evidence that some of those who stormed the Capitol were organized. But there's also evidence that a large number were everyday Americans who took on a mob mentality because they were angry and desperate.

KELLY: Pittman also says she has the phone records to prove requests were made for the National Guard, which arrived hours later. We're joined by NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So this is the first public hearing where we have heard from Pittman, the acting Capitol Police chief. What else did she say?

GRISALES: Yes, Pittman, who testified alongside Acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett, both appeared before this House Appropriations Subcommittee. Pittman added new details on this first frantic hour of the insurrection, saying Capitol Police obtained the phone records showing her predecessor - this Steven Sund, who was at the helm that day - had called these top security chiefs in the early minutes of the breach to request this National Guard assistance. And we should note, Sund and these other chiefs testified earlier this week before a Senate committee. Then House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving had told senators in that hearing that he never got that first call from Sund, and he did not request the guard until around 2 p.m. that day.

But we heard from Pittman today say that she has the phone records showing that not only did Sund call, but he did so six times to Irving and his counterpart in the Senate. And he did so from 12:58 p.m. that day to 1:45 p.m. that day. And this is a key piece of testimony because it's a central piece of evidence in these earliest days of these probes on why it took so long for the guard to show up that day.

KELLY: I'm trying to imagine the reaction from lawmakers to this key testimony, given that for all of them, this is very personal.

GRISALES: Yes, there was clear frustration on display. Some took aim at Pittman and Blodgett for the confusion that they saw. For example, GOP Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler reflected on seeing these rank-and-file officers getting no direction that day. Let's take a listen.

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JAIME HERRERA BEUTLER: They were getting no actual, real communication. They were getting no leadership. They were getting no direction. They had - there was no coordination. And you could see the fear in their eyes.

GRISALES: And this is one issue that the police union has zeroed in on. They even issued a no-confidence vote for Pittman and other leaders. Pittman herself conceded communication was one of the many leadership failures they had, and it's being addressed.

KELLY: How is it being addressed? I mean, what else are we learning about reforms going forward?

GRISALES: We're hearing lawmakers increasingly raise alarm about the Capitol Police Board. They oversee the police, are comprised of the chief, the sergeant at arms and a member of the architect of the Capitol. They say it's too bureaucratic and causes delays. Ohio Representative Tim Ryan talked about it. He chaired today's hearing. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TIM RYAN: We've got to figure out a new mechanism in which we can govern the security here.

GRISALES: Ryan also said Pittman and Capitol Police need to be more transparent.

KELLY: Right. All right. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales, thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.