In the late Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger’s final testimony before Congress, one of the key officials charged with securing the Capitol building on January 6 urged lawmakers to investigate ‘professional agitators.”
“There is an opportunity to learn lessons from the events of January 6th,’ Stenger said in his opening statement to Congress on February 23, 2021. “Investigations should be considered as to funding and travel of what appears to be professional agitators.”
“First Amendment rights should always be considered in conjunction with professional investigations,” he added. “The law enforcement coordination in the National Capitol Region should be reviewed to determine what can be done in a more efficient and productive manner. Intelligence collection and dissemination, training, and concepts on the use of force must be consistent. This integration should be accomplished without regard to self-serving interest and cost.”
“In conclusion, whenever you prepare for a major event, you must always consider the possibility of some form of civil disobedience at these demonstrations and plan accordingly,” Stenger added. “The events of January 6th went beyond disobedience. This was a violent, coordinated attack wherethe loss of life could have been much worse.”
It is unclear what Stenger meant by “professional agitators,” whether it be members of far-right groups, or members of Antifa, such as self-proclaimed ‘revolutionary’ John Sullivan, who captured the point blank killing of Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt on video, incited the crowd by shouting ‘burn it down,’ and was charged with a total of eight criminal counts, including weapons charges, related to the riot.
The news was first reported on Monday night by Fox News’ Chad Pergram, and were confirmed also by Politico’s K. Tully-McManus, but reports on Tuesday still lacked details. Reports that he was gunned down in the street are erroneous, and stem from a 2013 event involving a person of the same name.
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The Washington Post reported that Stenger died of “natural causes” based on anonymous sources.
“Stenger died Monday of natural causes, according to two people familiar with the matter. One of the people said he had been diagnosed with cancer and had been ill. The people would not discuss details of his condition publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.”
Politico earlier reported that Stenger died on Monday morning, but did not provide details.
“Stenger resigned from his position days after the violent insurrection at the Capitol,” the report added. “House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving and Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund also resigned in the aftermath of the attack.”
In a review of January 6 security failures, a staff report for the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee blamed Sund, Irving, and Stenger for failing to notify the National Guard in time.
“Steven Sund never submitted a formal request to the Capitol Police Board for National Guard support in advance of January 6,” the report said. “Instead, Steven Sund had informal conversations with the House Sergeant at Arms, Paul Irving, and the Senate Sergeant at Arms, Michael Stenger, regarding the potential need for National Guard support. No one ever discussed the possibility of National Guard support with the Architect of the Capitol, the third voting member of the Capitol Police Board.”
However, the National Guard was called to Washington D.C. for an entire week in June 2020, making it highly unlikely that Capitol Police Chief Sund, in particular, would be unfamilar with the procedure for calling up the National Guard, as well as the former House SAA Paul Irving and the late Senate SAA Michael Stenger.
Violent protests over the death of George Floyd, led to confrontation with authorities in Lafayette Square and at the White House. Buildings were set on fire, including St. John’s Church, as well as a number of vehicles. Altercations with police led to the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.
Former President Donald Trump was heavily criticized for his response to the riots, which critics complained was overly militarized. A Brennan Center editorial that appeared in far-left Slate even argued that the president should be stripped of his powers to call up the National Guard. The president was also slammed over a manufactured controversy involving a picture at the burned St. John’s Church. Trump would later be exonerated in an Inspector General report.
In a striking turn of events that foreshadows the security failures on January 6, the Pentagon Chief Mark Esper went against the orders of President Donald Trump in the June 2020 riots, and disarmed the National Guard charged with protecting the capitol and the White House.
“Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper made the decision to disarm the guard without consulting the White House, after President Trump ordered a militarized show of force on the streets of Washington to quell demonstrations that were punctured by an episode of looting Sunday, two senior administration officials said. Trump had encouraged the National Guard to be armed,” the Washington Post added.
The Washington Post report explained the chain-of-command for calling up the D.C. National Guard.
“Because the District is a special federal jurisdiction without the status of a state, the D.C. National Guard is controlled by the president, who delegated his authority over the forces to McCarthy,” the report noted. “The District’s mayor can request the deployment of the D.C. Guard but doesn’t have the power to deploy guardsmen herself or control them once deployed. Governors control the Guard in other states.”
Testifying on the January 6 security failures, the Capitol Police’s Inspector General Michael Bolton stated effectively that a ‘stand down’ order had been given that weakened security at the Capitol. Bolton provided testimony that explains the decision to disarm Capitol Police of powerful riot-control weapons.
“An order to hold back heavy riot-control weapons left Capitol Police at a grave disadvantage as front-line officers, vastly outnumbered, fought to protect Congress from a violent mob Jan. 6,” the Washington Post reported.
“Inspector General Michael Bolton told the House Administration Committee that a deputy assistant chief of police instructed officers not to use the weapons — including stingballs and 40mm launchers — out of concern that ‘they could potentially cause life-altering injury and/or death, if they were misused in any way’,” the Post said.
“Bolton did not identify the chief, but he said that had officers employed such measures, ‘it certainly would have helped us that day to enhance our ability to protect the Capitol’,” the report continued.
Major General William J. Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, testified before Congress in March, 2021, and raised grave concerns about the deliberately weakened Capitol security situation leading up to January 6. Walker explained that unnamed civilian authorities had a purported concern about “optics,” and made it clear that such concerns were “unusual.”
“The standard component of such report is the stand up of an off-site, quick-reaction force and element of guardsmen held in reserve with civil disturbance response equipment, helmets, shields, batons, et cetera,” Walker said. “They’re postured to quickly respond to an urgent and immediate need for assistance by civil authorities. The Secretary of the Army’s January 5th letter to me withheld that authority for me to employ a quick reaction force.”
“Additionally, the Secretary of the Army’s memorandum to me required that a concept of operation be submitted to him before the employment of a quick-reaction force. I found that requirement to be unusual, as was the requirement to seek approval to move guardsmen supporting the metropolitan police department to move from one traffic control point to another.”
“At 1:30 p.m. On January 6th, we watched as the metropolitan police department began to employ officers to support the Capitol Police,” General Walker continued. “In doing so, the officers began to withdraw from the traffic control points that were jointly manned with District of Columbia Guardsmen. At 1:49 p.m. I received a frantic call from then-Chief of the United States Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter of the United States Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters. Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a ‘dire emergency at the Capitol‘ and he requested the immediate assistance of as many available National Guardsmen that I could muster.”
It should be noted that the Pentagon placed limits on the National Guard’s ability to mobilize and prepare for the riots, the Washington Post earlier reported. President Trump also requested that 10,000 National Guard troops be at the Capitol.
“Former President Trump told Fox News late Sunday that he expressed concern over the crowd size near the Capitol days before last month’s deadly riots and personally requested 10,000 National Guard troops be deployed in response,” Fox News earlier reported.
It would not be the first time that President Trump’s security concerns would go ignored in Washington D.C. with disastrous consequences.
Stenger’s death comes one day before a ‘surprise’ January 6 committee hearing, which called Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson as a witness.