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Congressman On Capitol Police Inspector General Testimony


All right. Congressman Pete Aguilar was at today's hearing. He is a Democrat from California. Welcome.

PETE AGUILAR: Thanks for having me, Ailsa. I appreciate it.

CHANG: Well, we appreciate you being here. Tell us what struck you most about the inspector general's testimony today.

AGUILAR: Well, I just think how comprehensive it was. I mean, it's important to mention that this is just an unimaginably difficult time for the brave men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police. The violence that they had to endure on January 6 was horrifying for all of us. And I was in the chamber. And we know that the actions of many of the officers stopped a worse tragedy from occurring. But I think, you know, what caught me today was just the systemic issues of how they've, you know, ignored some advice in the past, how they didn't implement a plan. Those are type of - those are the types of things that are difficult to hear. And we had a series of reports, and there will be more reports from the inspector general forthcoming. So we look forward to gaining more information.

CHANG: Well, let me ask you, as we just heard, the IG's report said that officers were directed by leadership in their department to not use measures like sting balls or stun grenades to disperse the crowds that day. Do you think use of those types of weapons should have been authorized that day?

AGUILAR: Yes, they absolutely should have. Nonlethal force should have been utilized to keep the crowd back from the beginning, and they didn't they didn't follow that. But more than anything, they didn't have a plan that said if protesters breach this barrier, you're allowed to use this nonlethal force; if they breach this barrier, then what's the threshold for lethal force? Those are the types of - you know, that type of plan is exactly what the U.S. Capitol Police is responsible to to do. And the administrators in command and control of the Capitol Police should be responsible for not having implemented any plan to keep officers and members of Congress safe.

CHANG: Well, as you're saying, a lot of the hearing today focused on organizational and leadership failures, inadequate training, neglected equipment. To you, though, does that adequately explain what went wrong on January 6? And I'm asking this because I'm curious. Is there a part of you that feels the threat was simply underestimated because of who the rioters were - that is, supporters of then-President Trump?

AGUILAR: Well, I mean, absolutely. And I think many of us, you know, feel that if this - if these were protesters from, you know, Black Lives Matter protests, they could have been treated differently, much differently, in fact. And so, you know, we need to get to the bottom of this. And the only way we do that is by having a comprehensive review of what happened. You know, we're now coming up on, you know, three months, you know, past - just past three months after the insurrection, and, you know, there's going to be time for a deeper dive and hopefully a commission to look at this, as well as the committees of jurisdiction. Past administration, Judiciary Committee, Homeland Security should all take some responsibility to, you know, take a look and ask these difficult questions and provide our basic oversight responsibilities.

CHANG: Well, certainly a comprehensive review, as you put it, sounds like a very reasonable idea. But what can Congress do to ensure the Capitol Police are capable of preventing another attack? What do you see behind that comprehensive review?

AGUILAR: Yeah, well, I mean, I think immediately - and we may not be able to wait that long. We're likely going to have a supplemental request of funding to take up some of the measures that General Honore - a retired general who took a look at at the Capitol, took a look at our security functions and offered some immediate recommendations. And so I think to implement that and to have better coordination while we do a deeper review, we're going to need some resources.

So I do feel that we're going to be unveiling a security supplemental that will help protect the Capitol building, help ensure that there are more Capitol Police officers available for these types of things. And then, of course, we have to do the ongoing, you know, training and provide the leadership and change the culture of - and tighten those policies and procedures. And all of that's going to take time.

CHANG: Well, let me ask you something very specific - should Congress pass legislation to rework or do away with the Capitol Police Board that oversees the U.S. Capitol Police? Several members today raised concerns about that.

AGUILAR: I think when it's all said and done, we're going to have to take a look at the organizational structure that is likely outdated because they did not respond in a timely fashion. And looking at that Capitol Police Board could be a critical part of that review.

CHANG: All right. Pete Aguilar, Democrat from California. Thank you very much.

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

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
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