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Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund's request for National Guard backup was denied, he says in interview

John Bacon
USA TODAY

Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said he requested that the National Guard be placed on standby in the days before the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, but House and Senate security officials turned him down.

Sund, who resigned his post the day after the riot, told The Washington Post he had been concerned that the protest planned for Jan. 6 would be larger than expected. Sund said he asked House and Senate security officials for permission to request that the National Guard be placed on standby.

Sund said House and Senate sergeants at arms told him they were not comfortable with the “optics” of declaring an emergency days before the protest and suggested Sund should informally ask Guard officials to be on alert. Both have since resigned.

Sund said he pleaded for help five more times as the riot unfolded. A crowd of several thousand quickly overran the Capitol Police contingent of 1,400 officers at the scene.

“If we would have had the National Guard, we could have held them at bay longer, until more officers from our partner agencies could arrive,” Sund told the Post.

Steven Sund, former chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, says National Guard backup could have helped hold the line against protesters.

Sund said the crowd breached the Capitol just before 2 p.m. A half-hour later, he was on the phone with the Pentagon, he said. Sund and others said Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, director of the Army Staff, balked at recommending that his boss, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, approve the request. Again, optics were cited.

Piatt put out a statement that took issue with the account.

"I did not make the statement or any comments similar to what was attributed to me by Chief Sund in the Washington Post article," Piatt said, "but would note that even in his telling he makes it clear that neither I, nor anyone else from DoD, denied the deployment of requested personnel."

Piatt said "In the end, the National Guard was deployed to set the perimeter at the Capitol. It’s important that in the midst of a dire situation we have a clear plan and understand the task, purpose, and role of our Guardsman before we employ them."  

National Guard troops arrived around 5:40 p.m., after the riot had been quelled.

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Under federal law, the mayor of the District of Columbia does not have authority over the Guard. Neighboring Maryland must gain approval from the Pentagon to send its troops across the border into the District of Columbia.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he received a call Wednesday afternoon from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., saying the Capitol had been overrun. Hogan said he authorized the mobilization of the Maryland National Guard and was ready to deploy them to the Capitol.

"However, we were repeatedly denied approval to do so," Hogan said.

After "a little back and forth," Hogan said, McCarthy called about 90 minutes later to approve the request.

The Pentagon disputed that timeline, saying the Maryland National Guard informed Guard officials in Washington at 3:55 p.m. Jan. 6 that Hogan had activated a response force of 100 troops that could arrive in D.C. in eight hours. McCarthy said he first spoke to Hogan at 4:40 p.m. on the day of riot.

Sund, hours before resigning, said the riot was "unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C." His resignation, effective Jan. 16, came hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called for him step down.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called for a congressional inquiry, saying the riot "represented a massive failure of institutions, protocols and planning that are supposed to protect the first branch of our federal government."

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