After Capitol is breached, calls for the Architect of the Capitol’s removal

Pediments Are No Impediment

After Capitol is breached, calls for the Architect of the Capitol’s removal

The U.S. Capitol complex (MIKE STOLL/Unsplash)

[Update: Shortly after this article was published, Paul D. Irving, the House Sergeant at Arms submitted his resignation to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Capitol Chief-of-Police Steven A. Sund resigned later the same day, clearing out two-of-the-four Capitol Police board members mentioned below.]

After a mob of enraged Trump supporters stormed the 16-acre Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., yesterday seeking to disrupt the certification of the 2020 election results (to no avail), the Capitol police and their failure to secure the seat of U.S. government has come under public scrutiny.

With the dust settled and the historic Capitol complex and senators inside secure—minus the destruction of windows, pediments, the theft of government property and secure communications, and five dead—some of that ire is falling on J. Brett Blanton, current Architect of the Capitol (AOC). The AOC’s Office of Security Program manages the Capitol Police Buildings, Grounds and Security team, which is responsible for securing and hardening the Capitol campus. Blanton also sits on the Capitol Police board.

Blanton, an airport and naval engineer controversially nominated to the position by President Trump in December of 2019 and confirmed on January 16, 2020, is the 12th Architect of the Capitol. The position oversees the continued maintenance and operation of the U.S. Capitol and surrounding 570 acres of grounds, as well as the Library of Congress, U.S. Supreme Court, and a litany of other historic buildings and the artworks they contain.

For those unfamiliar with D.C. geography, Curbed has put up a great visualizer showing how the “protestors” were able to overwhelm Capitol security and breach both the House and Senate chambers. (At some junctures, it appeared that police opened perimeter gates to let the crowd through.) Elements of the mob were even able to occupy Nancy Pelosi’s ceremonial office and many took (unmasked) selfies while security seemingly stood by.

Of course, that didn’t sit well with lawmakers or ordinary citizens, and now Representative Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), the House appropriator for Capitol Police, is reportedly looking to purge the department, according to Politico.

“I think it’s pretty clear that there’s going to be a number of people who are going to be without employment very, very soon,” Ryan told Politico, “because this is an embarrassment—both on behalf of the mob and the president, and the insurrection and the attempted coup, but also the lack of professional planning and dealing with what we knew was going to occur.”

Meanwhile, on social media, users pointed out that the Capitol Police board, made up of Blanton, the House Sergeant at Arms (Paul D. Irving), Senate Sergeant at Arms (Michael C. Stenger), and Capitol Chief-of-Police Steven A. Sund should all be held responsible for failing to fortify the complex.

“So J. Brett Blanton, as the Architect of the Capitol, appointed by #45 also needs to be held accountable, tweeted one user, while others pointed out that unless removed, Blanton is on track to serve as Architect of the Capitol until 2030.

Meanwhile, instead of assigning blame at the top, others took the opportunity to point out that the AOC is also on the hook for repairing the damage done yesterday, as on-the-ground employees were quick to begin sweeping up. The historic furniture and art damaged by the mob will also need to be restored.

When reached for comment about the AOC and Blanton’s role in the security failure yesterday, an AOC representative passed along the following statement:

“The Architect of the Capitol manages the maintenance and upkeep of the landmark buildings and grounds of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. More than 2,000 AOC employees serve around the clock to maintain and preserve the buildings and grounds. Security and access to the buildings are handled by the House and Senate Sergeants at Arms and the U.S. Capitol Police.”

After being pressed on Blanton’s role on the Capitol Police board, they added, “He advises on facilities maintenance.”