News Headlines 2/24/21

LAW ENFORCEMENT, SECURITY OFFICIALS TESTIFY MISSED INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED CAPITOL ATTACK TO HAPPEN: Current and former law enforcement and security officials told Senate lawmakers Tuesday (February 23rd) that missed intelligence was what led to Capitol Police not anticipating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol and therefore not having enough manpower to stop it. They also pinned blame on each other as they appeared in a joint Senate hearing in their first public testimony about the Capitol attack. The officials said they expected the day’s protests to be similar to two other pro-Trump events in late 2020 that were much less violent. Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned under pressure after the attack, said he didn’t know at the time that his officers had gotten a report from an FBI field office on January 5th that warned about what extremists might do the next day. He said an officer on the task force had gotten the memo and forwarded it to a sergeant working on intelligence for the Capitol Police, but the information wasn’t sent to other supervisors. Sund also said of the scene on January 6th, “No single civilian law enforcement agency . . . is trained and equipped to repel, without significant military or other law enforcement assistance, an insurrection of thousands of armed, violent, and coordinated individuals focused on breaching a building at all costs.”

Also testifying were former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger and former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving, who were Sund’s supervisors in charge of security for the House and Senate, who also resigned after the attack. The acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, Robert Contee, testified as well. Sund contended that he spoke to Stenger and Irving about requesting National Guard in the days before January 6th, but that Irving said he was concerned about the “optics” of having them there. Irving denied those claims, saying, “We all agreed the intelligence did not support the troops and collectively decided to let it go.” There was also disagreement between them on when the National Guard was requested, which took hours to arrive after the attack began. Sund said he requested the Guard at 1:09 p.m., but Irving said they didn’t speak until at least 20 minutes later. For his part, Contee said he was “stunned” at the delayed response, describing Sund as pleading with Army officials to send Guardsmen as the attack was going on. Pentagon officials, who will testify next week, have said they offered National Guard assistance ahead of time, but it was rejected, and that it took time to get Guardsmen deployed after the attack began.

Sund: [“I witnessed insurgents beating police officers with fists, pipes, sticks, bats, metal barricades and flagpoles. These criminals came prepared for war.”] SOUNDCUE (:11 OC . . . prepared for war.)

Contee: [“Chief Sund was pleading for the deployment of the National Guard, and in response to that there was not an immediate yes, the National Guard is responding, yes the National Guard is on the way. . . . My response to that was simply — I was just stunned that– You know, I have officers that were out there literally fighting for their lives.”] SOUNDCUE (:20 OC . . . for their lives.)

DRUGMAKERS SAY WILL BE BIG BOOST IN CORONAVIRUS VACCINE SUPPLY OVER NEXT MONTH: Makers of the coronavirus vaccines told lawmakers in a House subcommittee meeting yesterday (February 23rd) that there will be a big boost in the delivery of vaccines over the coming month, and also said they’ll be able to provide enough vaccine for most Americans to be vaccinated by the summer. Pfizer and Moderna said they expect to have provided the federal government with 220 million doses by the end of March, much higher than the 75 million that they have supplied so far. A third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson — which is a single dose instead of two like the other vaccines — is expected to be approved soon, and the company said it should ship enough for 20 million people by the end of March. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than 44 million Americans have received at least one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine so far.

TEXAS POWER GRID BOARD LEADERS RESIGNING, BIDEN TO VISIT HOUSTON: Five top board leaders of Texas’ power grid operator ERCOT, including the chairwoman, said Tuesday (February 23rd) that they would resign effective today, in the wake of the grid buckling during last week’s winter storm that left snow and subfreezing temperatures. Millions were left without power and heat for days in the frigid weather, and millions also eventually had to boil their water. Texas Governor Greg Abbot said, “The lack of preparedness and transparency at ERCOT is unacceptable, and I welcome these resignations.

  • Meanwhile, the White House announced yesterday that President Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, will visit Texas on Friday in the wake of last week’s crisis. They will go to Houston, where they will meet with local leaders and visit a health center where coronavirus vaccines are being distributed. Biden has declared a major disaster in Texas.

GRAND JURY FAILS TO INDICT ROCHESTER, NEW YORK, OFFICERS IN DEATH OF DANIEL PRUDE: No charges will be brought against police officers in Rochester, New York, for the suffocation death of Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man who was having a mental health crisis, after the grand jury declined to indict them, state Attorney General Letitia James announced yesterday (February 23rd). The officers put a hood over Prude’s head and then pressed his body against the pavement until he stopped breathing. Prude died last March, but his death got national attention that led to days of protests after body camera video was released nearly six months later. James, whose office took over the investigation, said her office had, quote, “presented the strongest case possible” to the grand jury, but couldn’t convince them that the officers had committed a crime. Seven police officers were suspended over Prude’s death, and their attorneys say they were following their training.