Three former top Capitol security officials and the chief of the Washington police blamed federal law enforcement and the Defense Department on Tuesday for intelligence failures ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and for slow authorization of the National Guard as the violence escalated.
“None of the intelligence we received predicted what actually occurred,” former Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund told senators who are investigating security failures related to the attack. He called the riot “the worst attack on law enforcement and our democracy that I have seen” and said he witnessed insurrectionists assaulting officers not only with their fists but also with pipes, sticks, bats, metal barricades and flagpoles.
“These criminals came prepared for war,” Chief Sund said.
Chief Sund, Paul D. Irving, the former House sergeant-at-arms, and Michael C. Stenger, his former Senate counterpart, each said they had not seen a report from an F.B.I. field office in Norfolk, Va., that flagged an anonymous social media thread that warned of a looming war at the Capitol despite planning meetings with the bureau and others in federal law enforcement.
They pointed to a breakdown in communication of some of the intelligence. Chief Sund testified he now knows the F.B.I. report had reached the Capitol Police the day before the attack, but he had not personally seen it. He said that a Capitol Police officer assigned to a law enforcement joint terrorism task force received the document the night before the riot and sent it to an intelligence division official on the force.
“It did not go any further than that,” Chief Sund said.
Robert J. Contee, the chief of Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, laid the blame for the slow deployment of the National Guard solely on the Defense Department, noting that the Army had expressed reluctance to send in the troops as the violence escalated.
“I was stunned at the response from Department of the Army,” Chief Contee said.
The joint meeting of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Rules and Administration Committee was the first time the public has heard Mr. Sund and Mr. Iriving, the top two security officials at the Capitol on the day of the assault. Both resigned after the attack.
They have come under scrutiny amid reports that they did not act swiftly enough to call for the National Guard.
Mr. Irving took issue with former Chief Sund’s account that the former sergeant-at-arms rejected National Guard support because of “optics.” He also disputed Mr. Sund’s timeline of events on Jan. 6 that indicated Mr. Irving waited half an hour before approaching political leaders about calling in the guard.
“Certain media reports have stated that ‘optics’ determined my judgment about using those National Guard troops. That is categorically false,” Mr. Irving said. “‘Optics’ as portrayed in the media did not determine our security posture; safety was always paramount when evaluating security for Jan. 6.”
Still, he acknowledged the security failures. “We now know we had the wrong plan,” he said.
Some Republicans have sought to undermine the severity of the attacks by claiming that they were unplanned. In response to questions from Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Homeland Security committee, Mr. Sund, Mr. Conte and Mr. Irving all said that they believed the siege was coordinated.
“These people came with equipment, climbing gear,” Mr. Sund said, adding that two explosive devices placed near the Capitol distracted the authorities. Mr. Conte said that there is evidence the attackers used hand signals and coordinated their use of irritants, like bear spray.
In response to questioning, Mr. Sund said that Capitol Police had not been trained on how to deal with a mass infiltration and that many officers had not been equipped with riot gear. Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, seemed somewhat surprised by the disclosures, calling for such training and for protective gear for officers including helmets and gas masks.
Capitol Police Capt. Carneysha Mendoza testified to the violence she confronted Jan. 6. After she was called in early to duty at 1:30 p.m., she fought to keep rioters from damaging the Capitol, nearly breaking her arm and suffering burns from gas deployed in the Rotunda.
“I received chemical burns to my face that still have not healed to this day,” Captain Mendoza told senators.
After fighting the mob for four long hours, she spent the next day at the hospital with the family of Officer Brian Sicknick, who collapsed after suffering injuries during the siege and later died.
“It’s sad to see us attacked by our fellow citizens,” Captain Mendoza added.
Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico, President Biden’s pick to head the Interior Department, sought Tuesday to find the line between her past remarks as an activist opposing the fossil fuel industry, and her prospective role at the helm of an agency that oversees drilling and conservation on the nation’s more than 500 million acres of public land.
In the first day of a two-part confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy Committee, Ms. Haaland’s most important audience was the panel’s chairman, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a Democrat who has often sided with Republicans on environmental policy as he seeks to protect his home state’s coal industry.
Privately, however, Democrats have warned Mr. Manchin against being seen as derailing the candidacy of Ms. Haaland, who, if confirmed, would make history as the first Native American cabinet secretary.
During his opening statement, Mr. Manchin signaled a cautious willingness to support her nomination.
“As a former governor, I have always believed that a president should be given wide latitude in the selection of his cabinet,” he said. “But I also take the Senate’s constitutional obligation to advise and consent to the president’s nominations seriously.”
Mr. Manchin asked Ms. Haaland if she supports the idea of American energy independence, to which she said, “We want to move forward with innovation,” but added, “That’s not going to happen overnight. We will still rely on fossil fuel energy.”
Mr. Manchin replied, “I’m totally committed to innovation, not elimination.”
Ms. Haaland has previously called for a total ban on all fossil fuel exploration on public lands, and if confirmed, she would be charged with executing one of Mr. Biden’s most contentious policies — halting future hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas on public lands.
Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the energy committee’s ranking Republican, said that while her nomination deserved to be recognized for its historic nature, he was troubled by some of her views that he said would be viewed as “radical” in his home state.
“If Representative Haaland intends to use the Department of the Interior to crush the economy of Wyoming and other western states, then I’m going to oppose the nomination,” Mr. Barrasso said.
Mr. Barrasso and other Republicans pressed Ms. Haaland about some of her past remarks, such as a 2019 interview in which she said, “I am wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public lands.”
Ms. Haaland stressed that, if confirmed, she would enact Mr. Biden’s policies of pausing future fracking — rather than a full ban.
“If I’m confirmed as secretary, it’s President Biden’s agenda, not my own agenda, that I would be moving forward,” she said.
“There’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play in America for years to come,” she said. “I know how important oil and gas revenues are to fund critical services. But we must also recognize that the energy industry is innovating, and our climate challenges must be addressed,” she said, calling to “strike the right balance going forward.”
Ms. Haaland could win the votes of some Republicans. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, expressed concern about Mr. Biden’s moves to shut down drilling in her state. But she also celebrated Ms. Haaland’s historic nomination, and Ms. Haaland noted that she and Ms. Murkowski had worked together on a law to end violence against Native American women.
In an effort to emphasize her bipartisan bona fides, Ms. Haaland was introduced to the Senate committee by Ms. Murkowski’s fellow Alaska Republican, Representative Don Young.
“I have had her reach across the aisle to talk to me about Alaska. She’s bipartisan,” he said. Nonetheless, Mr. Young stressed that he disagrees with policies to end drilling.
“Anyone who thinks we’re going to call off fossil fuels immediately is smoking pot — that’s legal, by the way, in the state of Alaska.”
President Biden’s nominee for health secretary, Xavier Becerra, pledged Tuesday morning to work to “restore faith in public health institutions” and to “look to find common cause” with his critics, as Republicans sought to paint him as a liberal extremist who is unqualified for the job.
Appearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Mr. Becerra, the attorney general of California, was grilled by Republicans who complained that he has no background in the health profession, and who targeted his support for the Affordable Care Act and for abortion rights.
“Basically, you’ve been against pro-life, on the record,” Senator Mike Braun, Republican of Indiana, said to Mr. Becerra. He asked whether Mr. Becerra would commit to not using taxpayer money for abortions, which is currently barred by federal law, except in instances where the life of the mother is at stake, or in incest or rape.
“I will commit to following the law,” Mr. Becerra replied — leaving himself some wiggle room should the law change.
Tuesday’s appearance was the first of two Senate confirmation hearings for Mr. Becerra; he is scheduled to appear before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. Despite the tough questions, Mr. Becerra appears headed for confirmation in a Senate evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, but with Vice President Kamala Harris available to break a tie.
If confirmed, Mr. Becerra will immediately face a daunting task in leading the department at a critical moment, during a pandemic that has claimed half a million lives and has taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color. He would be the first Latino to serve as secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
While Mr. Becerra, a former member of Congress, lacks direct experience as a health professional, he took a deep interest in health policy while in Washington and helped write the Affordable Care Act. He has more recently been at the forefront of legal efforts to defend it, leading 20 states and the District of Columbia in a campaign to protect the act from being dismantled by Republicans.
Republicans and their allies in the conservative and anti-abortion movements have seized on Mr. Becerra’s defense of the A.C.A. as well as his support for abortion rights. Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, branded Mr. Becerra an “unqualified radical” in a post on Twitter on Monday, saying, “Any Senator supporting him will pay a price with voters.”
The Conservative Action Project, an advocacy group, issued a statement on Monday signed by dozens of conservative leaders, including several former members of Congress, complaining that Mr. Becerra had a “troubling record” with respect to “policies relating to the sanctity of life, human dignity and religious liberty.”
They cited in particular his vote against banning “late-term abortion,” and accused him of using his role as attorney general “to tip the scales in favor of Planned Parenthood,” a group that advocates abortion rights. Asked by Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, about the late-term abortion vote, Mr. Becerra noted that his wife is an obstetrician-gynecologist, and said he would “work to find common ground” on the issue. Mr. Romney was not impressed. “It sounds like we’re not going to reach common ground there,” he replied.
Democrats are emphasizing Mr. Becerra’s experience leading one of the nation’s largest justice departments through an especially trying period, and his up-from-the-bootstraps biography. A son of immigrants from Mexico, he attended Stanford University as an undergraduate and for law school. He served 12 terms in Congress, representing Los Angeles, before becoming the attorney general of his home state in 2017.
In her opening remarks, Senator Patty Murray, who is presiding over Tuesday’s hearing as chairwoman of the Senate health committee, said Mr. Becerra had “proven himself as an executive leader by seeing one of the nation’s largest justice departments through one of the most challenging periods in recent history” and spotlighted his commitment to social justice.
“He has held companies accountable for flouting Covid-19 safety rules and putting workers at risk,” Ms. Murray said. And, she added, “he has worked throughout his career to advocate on behalf of communities of color across health, immigration, education.”
The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a veteran diplomat, to become the United States ambassador to the United Nations, as President Biden’s administration seeks to become a more active force in the global body, which was marked by American retreat during the Trump administration.
Ms. Thomas-Greenfield’s confirmation, by a vote of 78-20, is the latest chapter in a rise that started in her birthplace of Louisiana, where she attended segregated schools and experienced a childhood, in the early 1950s, punctuated by racial tension.
As America’s top representative to the United Nations, Ms. Thomas-Greenfield, 68, has said she will set about restoring alliances and re-engaging in multilateral efforts to address global problems like the coronavirus pandemic.
“America is back,” said Ms. Thomas-Greenfield, when Mr. Biden announced her nomination in November, echoing a theme of Mr. Biden’s in talks with other world leaders. “Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.”
Ms. Thomas-Greenfield joined the foreign service in 1982. From 2008 to 2012, she served as ambassador to Liberia, before moving on to become the director general of the foreign service for about a year. From 2013 to 2017, she served as the top United States diplomat for African affairs, where she helped oversee the response to the Ebola epidemic. In 2017, she was among the diplomats pushed out of the department by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson.
During her tenure, she became known for what she calls “Gumbo Diplomacy,” referring to the Cajun dish she often prepared alongside her foreign counterparts to break down barriers during diplomatic conversations.
Republicans lawmakers on Capitol Hill have expressed some concern, most notably around a speech she gave in October 2019 on Africa’s relationship with both China and the United States.
In the speech, at Savannah State University, she extolled the benefits of American cooperation with China in cultivating strengthened relations with the developing countries of Africa, one of her main areas of expertise.
The speech was conspicuously lacking any criticism of China’s human-rights record or pattern of predatory-lending practices in developing countries desperate for investment. It was sponsored by the Confucius Institute, a Chinese government educational organization that American officials have accused of spreading pro-China propaganda in schools in the United States and elsewhere.
Ms. Thomas-Greenfield expressed regret for having agreed to make the speech but strongly contested the criticism of her views. “If you look at what I have done prior to that,” she said, “there is no question that I am not at all naïve about what the Chinese are doing and I have called them out on a regular basis.”
It’s a busy day on Capitol Hill.
President Biden’s nominees for interior and health secretary are appearing before Senate committees, where they are expected to face tough questions from Republicans.
The confirmation hearing of Representative Deb Haaland, the nominee for interior secretary, by the Energy and Natural Resources committee, kicked off at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, and questioning by Republicans on the panel is expected to be particularly tough. Democrats have pointed to the historic nature of her nomination: She would be the first Native American serve in the cabinet, leading a department that plays a huge role providing services to 1.9 million Indigenous people and helping maintain the government’s relationship with 574 federally recognized tribes. Her detractors have zeroed in on her opposition to all oil and gas exploration on public land and to the natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Xavier Becerra, the California attorney general and nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, appeared before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee at 10 a.m. He would be the first Latino to serve as health secretary, and has deep experience as a lawmaker and in legal defense of the Affordable Care Act. But Republicans have painted him as an extremist, faulting him for his views on the A.C.A. and abortion rights.
Two other Senate committees are beginning investigative hearings into the security breakdowns that failed to prevent the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. The joint hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Rules and Administration Committee started at 10 a.m. It was the first time the public heard from top security officials at the time of the assault.
Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, appeared before the Senate Banking Committee at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, and is slated to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. His testimony comes as Democrats look to pass $1.9 trillion in new economic relief, an effort that has raised concerns in some quarters about the potential for higher inflation. Mr. Powell has typically pushed for additional government support to help the economy through the pandemic.
Vaccine makers also appeared before the House Energy Committee to discuss expanding availability of their products beginning at 10:30 a.m. Executives from Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax are scheduled to appear.
The full Senate voted to confirm Mr. Biden’s nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, around 11:30 a.m., and is expected to vote on the nominee for agriculture secretary, Thomas J. Vilsack, around 2:45 p.m.
The confirmation hearings for the attorney general nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland, entered their second day on Tuesday, with lawmakers hearing from with expert witnesses. During his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, Judge Garland vowed to make the federal investigation into the Capitol riot his first priority if confirmed.
The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on digital security at 2:30 p.m., with top executives from the tech companies FireEye, SolarWinds, Microsoft and CrowdStrike appearing as witnesses. The top cybersecurity official at the White House said last week that investigators were still uncovering details of a broad Russian breach of government and corporate computers discovered late last year, which became known as the SolarWinds attack. Officials believe that a Russian intelligence operation inserted code into network management software made by SolarWinds, a Texas company, and other layers of the supply chain to infiltrate government agencies.
President Biden and Jill Biden, the first lady, will travel to Texas on Friday to meet with local officials in the aftermath of the devastating winter storms that knocked out power and water for millions, his first visit to the site of a natural disaster since taking office.
Mr. Biden and Dr. Biden will travel to Houston, where they will review recovery efforts and meet with officials working on the effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters in her daily briefing.
Ms. Psaki said other details of their itinerary were still being ironed out.
“We of course remain in close touch with state and local elected officials to monitor the recovery,” she added.
Even as power and water is restored, nearly ten million people in the region are still under boil-water orders to deal with potential contamination of supplies affected by power outages that took their filtration systems offline, Ms. Psaki said, citing statistics compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Earlier in the day, FEMA officials announced they were expanding a program to allow homeowners and renters in parts of Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma hit by the storm to apply for individual disaster assistance.
On Saturday, Mr. Biden approved a major disaster declaration in Texas, a technical designation that accelerates federal aid, in the form of emergency loans and grants to individuals and businesses impacted by the storm.
Federal officials are also helping local governments deal with disruptions to the vaccination distribution system caused by the weather.
Mr. Biden said last week that he planned to visit Texas, but he expressed reluctance to do so in the early stages of the recovery to avoid inconveniencing local officials with the daunting logistics of a presidential visit.
“As I said when I ran, I’m going to be a president for all Americans,” said Mr. Biden, who lost Texas in the 2020 election to former President Donald J. Trump by about five percentage points. “If I can do it without creating a burden for folks, I plan on going.”
Mr. Biden and his team have been holding conference calls with local mayors, county officials and the state’s governor, Greg Abbott, White House officials said.
It is not clear if Mr. Abbott, a Republican, will be meeting with Mr. Biden when he visits. A message left with his office was not immediately returned.
Former Senator David Perdue of Georgia has decided he will not run against an incumbent Democrat, Senator Raphael Warnock, in 2022, just a week after Mr. Perdue announced he had filed paperwork for a possible new campaign, and just days after a visit to former President Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Perdue, 71, a Republican and a former businessman who lost in a January runoff election to the state’s other newly elected senator, Jon Ossoff, said in a statement that he had reached the decision after “much prayer and reflection” with his wife, Bonnie.
Mr. Warnock defeated Kelly Loeffler, who was also a Republican incumbent, in January, winning a term that expires in January 2023. The two Republican losses handed control of the Senate to Democrats.
There were conflicting signals from people close to Mr. Perdue about how much a 2022 campaign was something he was interested in versus something some of his advisers were pushing. In a post on Twitter on Tuesday, Mr. Perdue called it “a personal decision, not a political one.”
But the announcement came just days after Mr. Perdue made what is becoming a ritualistic trip for Republicans — to former President Donald J. Trump’s private club in Florida, for dinner and a lengthy round of golf last Friday. That raised questions among some Republicans about what Mr. Trump had said to him during their time together.
The meeting did not go well, people briefed on it said. Mr. Trump was focused on retribution, particularly against Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, and Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican whom Mr. Trump views as having betrayed him.
Two Republicans, one in Atlanta and another in Washington, separately said that Mr. Trump spent much of his conversation with Mr. Perdue making clear his determination to unseat Georgia’s governor next year. Trying to navigate a feud between the former president and his state’s sitting governor for the next two years was deeply unappealing to Mr. Perdue, according to a Georgia Republican who knows the former senator.
One of the people briefed on the meeting with Mr. Trump said it appeared to be a factor in Mr. Perdue’s decision not to run. But the second person said the biggest factor was how draining another campaign and then potentially six more years in the Senate would be.
Now the question in Georgia is whether the 2022 race will become a replay of 2020, when Ms. Loeffler and former Representative Doug Collins competed with each other to run against Mr. Warnock.
Yet after Ms. Loeffler sprinted to the right to fend off Mr. Collins, another hard-line Trump favorite, it’s unclear whether she’d want to run the same kind of primary. While Mr. Trump has publicly encouraged Mr. Collins to challenge Mr. Kemp, most Georgia Republicans believe Mr. Collins is more inclined to run for the Senate.
Mr. Perdue said that he was “confident” that any candidate the Republicans nominated would defeat Mr. Warnock, adding, “I will do anything I can to make that happen.”
A message to Mr. Perdue’s spokesman was not immediately returned.
In his statement on Tuesday, Mr. Perdue echoed Mr. Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud in the state and called on Republican officials in Georgia to change state laws and election rules “so that, in the future, every legal voter will be treated equally and illegal votes will not be included.”
State election officials have repeatedly said that illegal voting had no impact on the outcome of either the November general election or the January runoffs.
Fewer 2020 incumbents lost general elections for state legislative seats than in any year in the last decade, according to a new analysis from the political website Ballotpedia.
Yet while incumbents were becoming safer in general elections, they were more vulnerable in primaries than in any year since 2012 — the last time redistricting forced many elected officials into districts with fellow incumbents — a sign of the increasing polarization of American politics, particularly in the Republican Party.
Nearly twice as many Republican state legislators lost primary contests (94) than general elections (52) last year, and nearly three times as many Democrats were ousted in November (165) than in party primaries (60).
Overall, just 227 of 4,823 incumbents who appeared on general election ballots this year lost — the smallest numbers since Ballotpedia began tracking data in 2010. Fewer state legislative incumbents typically lose in presidential election years, an indication that voters who choose one party for president stick with the same party for other offices on the ballot.
Last year’s elections also marked the first time since 1944 that only two statehouse chambers — the New Hampshire House and Senate, which both flipped from Democratic to Republican majorities — changed partisan control.
“You’d call this election a draw,” said Doug Kronaizl, who conducted the Ballotpedia study of state legislative results. “You didn’t see a bunch of flips. It was just a struggle in the trenches as far as partisan control.”
With redistricting battles looming when the Census Bureau delivers its 2020 data to states later this year, control of redistricting changed in only three states last year: New Hampshire; Vermont, where Democrats lost a veto-proof majority in the state legislature; and Virginia, where voters approved a nonpartisan redistricting commission.
Less than a week after his instantly infamous escape to Mexico during the historic winter storm in Texas, Senator Ted Cruz has alighted on who he believes is the episode’s true villain: the media.
During an appearance on a podcast hosted by Josh Holmes, a former aide and close adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, Mr. Cruz criticized paparazzi for photographing his bikini-clad wife, Heidi, on the beach in Cancún, the New York Post for publishing the pictures, a reporter who wrote about his dog, Snowflake, and neighbors who leaked text messages that revealed the origin of the Cruz family trip was not what Mr. Cruz had said publicly.
“Heidi is smoking hot, so I said ‘Man, you look great,’” Mr. Cruz said. “I don’t think there are many women who would be thrilled to have reporters following them around taking pictures of them in their bikinis and sticking them in the pages of the New York Post, but that’s what goes by journalism these days.”
Mr. Cruz said his wife was angry that her text messages, first published by The New York Times, inviting their Houston neighbors to travel with them to Cancún in the midst of statewide power outages had been leaked and was investigating who betrayed her confidence. Mr. Cruz said he suspected it was one of his Democratic neighbors.
“She was over at our neighbor’s house walking through it,” he said. “We have folks on our street who put up Beto signs, which I thought was pretty rude.”
The two-term senator, who ran for president in 2016 and has not extinguished his White House ambitions, did not acknowledge it was wrong to leave his state as it was being battered by a deadly storm for a trip to the beach. (Though he acknowledged the trip was “obviously a mistake” after returning from Mexico.) Instead, he said on the podcast that his constituents and the news media should cut him a break.
“Treat each other as human beings,” Mr. Cruz said. “Have some modicum of respect. We just need to laugh a little bit and loosen up.”