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'Planned, Coordinated Attack': Former Capitol Police Chief On The Insurrection

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund says he increasingly believes the insurrection at the Capitol was part of an orchestrated plan. Sund resigned shortly after the deadly riot. He says his agency received warnings of potential violence on January 6, but nothing prepared them for what they saw that day.

STEVEN SUND: This was not a demonstration. This was not a failure to plan for a demonstration. This was a planned, coordinated attack on the United States Capitol.

CHANG: As part of that planned, coordinated attack, Sund believes pipe bombs planted nearby were intended to distract police from the mobs. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales spoke with Sund today and joins us now to talk about their conversation. Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: So why do some believe pipe bombs may have been used as some sort of diversion?

GRISALES: These pipe bombs were found at the Republican and Democratic National Committee offices near the Capitol. No one has been arrested in that case. And while we don't have any official confirmation that these incidents were linked, Sund says new developments point in that direction.

SUND: Yeah, I think that's all part of the concerted and coordinated efforts that led to the violent attack. Those were diversionary tactics to pull resources away from the Hill in advance of that attack. I honestly believe that.

GRISALES: Sund said he worked from the operations center at the Capitol Police headquarters. He and others were watching the rally at the Ellipse, where President Trump spoke. But they diverted their attention just as these violent mobs headed to the Capitol.

CHANG: OK. Another thing that Sund has said is that a request for additional military backup was rejected by House security official ahead of the attack. Is he still standing by that claim?

GRISALES: Yes. He says two days before the attack, he told the then-House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving that he wanted assistance from the National Guard. Sund said Capitol Police were expecting a large event, so they pushed out their security perimeter with police bike racks. And they wanted the guard support along that perimeter, but he said Irving expressed concerns of the optics of having a military presence surrounding the Capitol.

CHANG: And now Sund and Irving and Irving's Senate counterpart, Michael Stanger - they have all lost their jobs. How much is Sund still defending his actions and the actions of the Capitol Police at this point?

GRISALES: He is quite a bit. He said that he called for all hands on deck that day for his agency, with 400 to 1,500 officers on duty. And he saw them fighting for their lives. And while they expected violence, he disputes reports that his agency received warnings of the scale of attack that we saw. He also rejects that bias or systemic racism played a role in the decisions leading up to or on that day.

And he says he spoke to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi three times on the 6, the last time being at 6:25 p.m. that evening. That was a joint call with Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to ensure their return to their chambers. The following afternoon Pelosi said she hadn't heard from Sund and asked for his resignation, so he submitted it. He did say perhaps congressional oversight of Capitol Police may have had a role to play in security failures.

SUND: I know a number of groups are investigating this incident. I think they'll find that it's a very convoluted, bureaucratic method of maintaining security in the nation's capital.

GRISALES: We're likely to learn more in the review of what happened, which will be led by retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore, who commanded the troops during Hurricane Katrina. Sund, meanwhile, says he's cooperating with all of the ongoing investigation - so lots more still to learn here.

CHANG: That's NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Thank you, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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