The sergeants-at-arms of the Senate and House, Michael C. Stenger and Paul D. Irving, have resigned from their posts and are now facing intense scrutiny over the security failure last week that led to the deadly siege of the Capitol, its first occupation since the War of 1812.
The former chief of the Capitol Police, Steven Sund, told The Washington Post that they refused to grant his requests to put the National Guard on standby leading up to Congress’s Electoral College certification, which Trump supporters ultimately disrupted, because they were too concerned about the “optics” of such a move.
The jobs forced both men to balance an array of often-conflicting forces, according to interviews with former colleagues, law enforcement experts and former sergeants-at-arms. Attempts to reach Mr. Stenger and Mr. Irving were unsuccessful.
Both positions derive their power directly from lawmakers. The Senate elects its sergeant-at-arms and the speaker of the House picks that chamber’s. Mr. Stenger, who worked for the Senate, and Mr. Irving, his House counterpart, deftly tried to satisfy the 535 lawmakers who often had competing demands that made even mundane decisions like replacing locks on windows into fraught issues, according to interviews.
But the accusations by Mr. Sund, who had reported to both men, ignited criticisms that Mr. Stenger and Mr. Irving had placed politics over the safety of lawmakers, staff members and journalists assembled for the count of the Electoral College vote.
Terrance W. Gainer, who previously served as both the chief of the Capitol Police and the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms, said that emergencies on Capitol Hill typically exposed problems with the chain of command that had festered during quieter times. He said that during the 2013 shooting at the Washington Navy Yard and the 2011 earthquake on the East Coast, security officials on Capitol Hill had differing views on how to react, complicating their response.
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