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Senate panels call former Capitol Police chief to testify

WASHINGTON D.C., USA - JANUARY 6: Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol in Washington D.C on January 6, 2021. Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has announced its first hearings to examine the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol, calling in the former chief of Capitol Police and the former heads of security for the House and Senate, all three of whom resigned immediately after the attack.

Two Senate committees will meet next week to begin a broad examination of the security failures that led to the vast breach, in which five people died. In addition to the Feb. 23 hearing, the two committees are pressing for information from almost two dozen agencies and departments about the response.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Rules Committee announced Tuesday that they had invited former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, former Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger and former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving to the hearing, along with Robert Contee, the chief of the Metropolitan Police Department.

The security breakdown that day, as the House and Senate met for a joint session to count electoral votes, was massive. The Capitol Police had planned for a free speech demonstration, not a violent insurrection by supporters of former President Donald Trump to overturn the election. The rioters not only breached the Capitol but entered the Senate chamber minutes after senators had fled and tried to break through the doors of the House chamber with lawmakers still inside. Outside, they engaged in hand-to-hand combat with an outnumbered, ill-prepared Capitol Police force, eventually assisted by D.C. police.

The acting chief of the Capitol Police, Yogananda Pittman, has acknowledged the department knew before Jan. 6 that extremists and white supremacists could be in the crowd outside the Capitol, but she and other leaders are still pointing fingers about who was responsible for not bolstering security.

With security weakened, tall fences and barbed wire now surround the Capitol, cutting off streets and laying out a wide perimeter. Thousands of National Guard troops line the fences and protect the halls.

The hearing was announced by Senate Homeland Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich.; the Homeland panel’s top Republican, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman; Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and the top Republican on the Rules panel, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt.