Dozens of members of Congress including US Representative Katherine Clark, a Melrose resident and fourth-ranked Democrat in the House, sent a letter Wednesday to Capitol security officials demanding information on the unusually high number of visitors granted access to the building on Tuesday of last week, one day before a mob incited by President Trump stormed the facility in a bloody episode that left at least five people dead.
The letter was sent to Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, Acting House Sergeant-At-Arms Timothy Blodgett, and Acting Senate Sergeant-At-Arms Jennifer A. Hemmingway.
“We write today to request an immediate investigation into the suspicious behavior and access given to visitors to the Capitol Complex on Tuesday, Jan. 5,” one day before the deadly riot, the letter said.
The tumult began soon after many rioters had earlier attended a rally in which President Trump told them to “fight like hell” and walk to the Capitol in an effort to disrupt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Wednesday’s letter from the lawmakers said many of them and their staffers noticed “an extremely high number” of outside groups in the Capitol the day before the riot, which seemed odd since public tours ended in March of 2020 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tours the day before the riot, the letter said, “were a noticeable and concerning departure” from protocols put in place last March limiting the number of visitors, so much so that they were reported to the sergeant-at-arms on Jan. 5.
The letter said the Jan. 5 visitors “appeared to be associated” with Trump’s rally that preceded the riot the following day.
“Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex,” the letter said.
The lawmakers called for an investigation on the ties between the suspicious visitors on Jan. 5 and the riot the next day. In addition, the letter said the Jan. 5 visitors could’ve only gained access to the Capitol through a member of Congress or their staff.
To that end, the lawmakers said, they want answers to several questions, including whether logbooks of Capitol visitors are inspected regularly and collected in any type of database; whether authorities “enforce” lawmakers signing in guests; whether additional law enforcement agencies have sought access to the logs; the criteria for preventing a visitor from entering; what tracking is used to ensure that a staffer doesn’t bring in more of their allotted official visitors through multiple entrances; whether video logs exist for the day in question; whether facial recognition software is used for visitors; and if any Jan. 5 visitors are being investigated for their alleged roles in “the insurrection the following day.”
Material from the New York Times was used in this report.