The Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is convening a bipartisan hearing next week to determine why there was no officer of authority on the Capitol complex’s Capitol South Garage when a woman jumped a barrier on the plaza to get onto the House floor on Thursday, causing chaos before being tackled and taken into custody.
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, told reporters at a press conference on Friday that the committee is trying to determine if there was any failure by the Capitol Police, which operates on an annual budget of about $265 million and is widely considered to be one of the best-paid law enforcement agencies in the country.
“It’s not rocket science. There’s more than one level of accountability when someone jumps a barrier,” Johnson said, adding that the department’s chief, Matthew Verderosa, had offered an “attractive” offer to testify.
“He said he’d be glad to come,” Johnson said. “I’ll welcome him.”
Johnson said he did not expect any testimony to shed new light on why the young woman who jumped the barrier had trouble getting a seat on the House floor. But he said that two officers who witnessed the incident on the House side and the officers who responded to it on the Capitol side would be brought to testify, as would anyone from the House and Senate who witnessed the incident.
Both Johnson and Sen. John McCain, a Phoenix Republican, were also referring to TV footage of a House member who allegedly egged on an officer to move toward the woman as she jumped the barrier.
It remains unclear whether there is video evidence of the moment. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Thursday that there was no such video. Verderosa said the video existed, and authorities were investigating the incident. It will be released as part of an investigation by the police department, he said.
“There’s a lot of different videos that come in,” Johnson said. “But it’s pretty clear that the surveillance video from the building shows both the interior of the Senate [walls] where it happens and from the House side.”
If there were videos that did not record the incident directly, it could leave questions about who saw what, who authorized what and who knew about what.
“We don’t know who was who, where they were from,” Johnson said. “And how much resources were immediately available.”
Johnson vowed to look into the matter because, he said, “these are things we shouldn’t have to learn as members of Congress.”
“I don’t think you’d put him under any sort of circumstances at all. He’s a good cop,” Johnson said of Verderosa. “But if there’s other things we can learn and be amazed that we don’t know about, we ought to look into it.”
As he praised the Capitol Police for doing “an impressive job under chaotic circumstances,” Johnson said the incident did not “diminish the need for the police department to be held accountable.”
McCarthy said the incident was “sad” and dangerous for the officers who rushed to the barricade and for the woman who tried to jump the barrier.
“Frankly, I applaud them for their response to this. I just thought it was a bad day all around for politics,” McCarthy said, referring to the three members of Congress who were being interviewed at the White House on Friday.