For Martin Luther King Day, we hear from an artist who makes civil rights heroes leap off the page.
In a week unlike any other, pro-Trump rioters gained access to the U.S. Capitol Building. Metropolitan Police Department Robert J. Contee III joins us to talk about how his department prepared, coordinating with federal partners and how the day unfolded. And we’ll hear how D.C. police are working to identify members of the violent mob and other next steps the city is taking.
Then, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) talks about his experience being locked in the Capitol building during the insurrection, and what it would look like to use the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office. Plus, we’ll talk about his priorities once Democrats gain control of the Senate.
Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we’re at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Produced by Cydney Grannan
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper; @tomsherwood
- Robert J. Contee III Chief of Police, Metropolitan Police Department; @DCPoliceDept
- Tim Kaine Senator (D-VA), U.S. Senate; Former Governor of Virginia; Former Chairman, Democratic National Committee; @timkaine
KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our Resident Analyst and Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, Happy New Year. Welcome.
TOM SHERWOODHello, everybody, and now wait a minute, Kojo. I've got more to say today. This is a special day. The listeners need to know this. You are working on your birthday and I have a special message from Dr. Fauci. He says, "Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Stay home. And then and only then can you have a happy birthday." But seriously, all the folks here at WAMU treasure you. And I'm sure the listeners agree when we all say "Happy Birthday, Kojo."
NNAMDIWell, thank you, junior. Tom is still a year younger than I am.
SHERWOODYou know what they say, Kojo.
SHERWOODIf things really do get better with age, you ought to be perfect.
NNAMDII am not yet perfect, but I am getting older and I'm aspiring to perfection. Later in the broadcast, we'll be talking with Tim Kaine. He is a U.S. Senator representing Virginia. Joining us now is Robert J. Cantee, III, the Chief of Police for the District's Metropolitan Police Department. Chief Cantee, thank you for joining us.
ROBERT J. CONTEE IIIAbsolutely. Thank you for having me on the show. And happy birthday to you, Kojo. Man, you're working on the birthday so that says a lot, sir.
NNAMDIThanks a lot. Chief Contee, we usually spend a little bit of time bantering about your own background. Because of the special circumstances that we are now experiencing, not only can I say congratulations on your new role as Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, but I can tell our listeners that Chief Contee is from east of the river. He lives and led the force there. We met him in 2018 when we did a Kojo Community Town Hall in Ward 7. We were impressed that he seemed to know the names of so many people in that school, and clearly did his job with compassion.
NNAMDIBut, Chief, what a way to start your tenure. One little tidbit of information. In the file for former Police Chief Charles Ramsey, there's a note buried at the bottom that says, "Chief Ramsey's scheduler is Officer Contee." Is there more than one Officer Contee or have you been around long enough that you worked for him?
IIINo. I actually -- that was my sister. My sister is also a police officer. And back then when he came to Washington D.C. she was actually his scheduler.
NNAMDISo that then explains that. Chief Contee, let's get right to it. There are a lot of questions about what happened on Wednesday when an angry mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitols. And there's a lot of confusion about the roles of different law enforcement agencies that day. Allow me to be clear for our listeners who should know it, but who may not. The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia is not the Capitol Police.
NNAMDIThe Capitol Police is a separate force of approximately 2,000 people whose job it is to patrol and secure the U.S. Capitol. That said, Chief Contee, can you tell us about the roles of the different law enforcement agencies in the initial plan for that day and what the role of MPD was.
IIIYeah. You know, as you mentioned, the United States Capitol Police, they are the law enforcement arm of the legislative branch of the government. MPD, obviously, does not have that role. Their role and responsibility was to secure the Capitol and the members of the Capitol be on the House or Senate side and their staff. Their plan was supposed to make sure that the Capitol is secure. My responsibility was for everything outside of the federal footprint with the federal buildings. You know, you have on the Federal Mall you have the U.S. Park Police that's responsible for that area. MPD's role and responsibility was really the areas that are surrounding there.
IIIObviously, we offer support. We work in tandem. But there are very clear lines that we observe in working through these various relationships. D.C. is a very unique place. And in the federal footprint, most people who live here know that these different agencies -- the Supreme Court, they have their own police department. The U.S. Mint, they have their own police department. And you kind of got this conglomerate, if you will, of several law enforcement agencies pushed into this very small city. So everybody pretty much had responsibility for their areas of response -- for the areas that they're responsible for. On the planning -- yes, I'm sorry. Go ahead.
SHERWOODWell, I'll get into exactly what you're about to talk about, Chief. First I just think out of respect I think you would like to acknowledge and I will also that the U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was injured in fighting back the mob that was trying to take the Capitol. He returned to his station and he collapsed and he has died. So we want to send sympathies to both the Capitol Police and to his family.
SHERWOODBut I want to ask you, Chief, one of the criticisms that we've heard is that the Capitol Police led by Chief Sund, who has since announced his resignation is that he didn't seek help. And I have been told something that I had not seen reported anywhere else that both you and Mayor Bowser were on the phone to Chief Sund about noon on Wednesday offering help. And Chief Sund said, "No. We've got it. We don't need you." But then an hour later, of course, they did need you. And the D.C. Police I think did a remarkable job of going in and settling down, and moving the rioters out. Can you tell in fact, did that conversation call when you and the mayor told the Capitol Police you would help them and you were initially turned down?
IIINo. So that's not accurate. That's not accurate at all.
SHERWOODWas it close?
SHERWOODWas it close? Did you and the mayor have that conversation with the chief?
IIIThat was at a later point, but it was already a dire situation by the time we had a conversation with Chief Sund. I'll tell you exactly the way it unfolded. Close to about one o'clock p.m. is when the Metropolitan Police Department was called to come to the U.S. Capitol. Now just to kind of paint the picture of what was going on, when MPD was called to the scene to assist U.S. Capitol, you already had people who were encroaching on -- already people that were encroaching on Capitol property.
IIINow we have someone from the U.S. Capitol and this may be what you're referring to, but this was not a call from the mayor or from me to the Capitol. We have someone from U.S. Capitol that's in our joint operation center that, you know, could very well have relayed, hey, we have these groups of people that are marching towards the Capitol. I mean, that's very clear that was going on. But when MPD got called into the fight at about 1:00 p.m. it was a dire situation.
IIIThe other part that was going on simultaneously were there were two pipe bombs that were discovered at the RNC and DNC. At the same time all of this insurrection is going on. So we're sending MPD forces in to assist. We were requested to come in to U.S. Capitol Police property. Again, that's not something that we just initiate on our own. You know, just like we don't invite ourselves onto the grounds of the White House. The U.S. Secret Service would have to do that. Same thing here. We were invited onto the grounds of the United States Capitol to assist the U.S. Capitol Police on the west front of the Capitol, because things were -- they were dire at that time. The conversation that you may be referring to with Chief Sund that came a little later.
NNAMDIBut, Chief Contee, during the planning for this operation when all of these agencies presumably were involved in the planning, was there any significant conversation about what would happen if demonstrators attempted to invade the Capitol? Tom Sherwood can you tell you that the night before this happened, I sent him a text message saying that my primary concern was that these demonstrators were heading to take over the Congress of the United States. And it is inconceivable to me that that was not considered in the planning process. Can you clarify that, please?
IIIYeah. So it may have been from the U.S. Capitol side. Again, I got sworn in on Tuesday. I had a conversation with several of the police chiefs in the area maybe the Monday before this Wednesday demonstration. I think, you know, the mayor was very clear about Washington D.C.'s response that we were expecting increased numbers. We preplanned in terms of asking of for National Guard, requesting mutual aid from surrounding agencies. Those assets were in place in Washington D.C. ready to go at a moment's notice. The U.S. Capitol Police side of it in terms of their deployment -- again, that's a 2,000 member agency. Keeping that in mind, that's an agency that's larger than Montgomery County and Prince George's County.
IIISo, you know, again, they had their planning, and I'm sure that they were anticipating -- I would like to think that they were anticipating worst case scenarios. But clearly there was a failure here.
SHERWOODChief, kind of a serious question, but also interesting question. Where were you on Wednesday? Were you at that command center out on Martin Luther King or were you downtown at the Police Headquarters? Did you actually get out and about around the city to personally observe what was going on?
IIIAbsolutely. I sure did. So the day -- I was out and about down on the Mall as things were happening. When MPD got called in, I responded to the Capitol. I responded to up Independence to the west side of the Capitol. I exited my vehicle. I headed down to the west front so I could get a real bird's eye view of what was going on. At that time, pepper spray and other munitions were being used. I contact the mayor immediately. We had a conversation. I advised the mayor that we needed to institute a curfew.
IIIOn that advisement, the mayor had a consultation with the city administrator. Agreed to that. We started working on that. I also had a conversation with the chief from the United States -- I'm sorry not the United States, but from the Metro Transit Police to also begin to start putting in place efforts to shut Metro down at a certain time once the curfew was in place.
IIISo I was there. And then after making those assessments, then I went back and I met the mayor at Police Headquarters so that I could run operations from our -- have a more strategic vantage point to really kind of make those decisions about what MPD needed to do.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation with Robert Contee. He's the Chief of Police of the District's Metropolitan Police Department. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Robert J. Contee, III. He is the Chief of Police of the District's Metropolitan Police Department. Here is Emmanuel at the University of Maryland. Emmanuel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
EMMANUELFirst of all I would like thank chief for his service. And my question here is I am -- Washington field office, FBI (unintelligible) graduate. And I know for the fact, if there is a big demonstration at the same scale, what we saw three days ago, the taskforce like from federal, local they get together in order to assess the security. And my question here right now is what went wrong, because the same day around 2:31 I was watching TV, and then when I saw all the situation going on, I called the U.S. Capitol Police. And they were distressed. They could not give me any information.
NNAMDIWell, I have to interrupt because we don't have a great deal of time. Chief Contee, this question has been raised before about the apparent lack of coordination. The mayor, the MPD and their federal law enforcement partners got a lot of criticism for the heavy handed approach to policing during the protests especially the Black Lives protests last summer. Did what happen in June lead to a scaling back of the approach this week, because some of them are connecting the failure to police the Capitol with a letter Mayor Bowser sent to the Pentagon and the DOJ not requesting additional personnel to help D.C. What was going on there?
IIINo. I think those are incidents that you have to look at kind of through a different lens. The mayor does not have the authority to send resources onto the grounds of the United States Capitol. She just does not have the authority to do that. I do not have the authority to send police officers there. When we were dealing with the situation back in June, when we had the unrest in our city and those resources were here, those were resources that as the situation unfolded the mayor could make specific request for. You know, I need National Guard. I need, you know, whatever other resource that was available at the time. So I think that there's a distinction here. You know, we could only send to the Capitol, again, that resource once asked.
IIIAnd, again, keeping in mind the U.S. Capitol is a separate branch of government. So for other entities, the FBI, etcetera, all those other federal partners that were here back in June the U.S. Capitol Police would have needed to request those resources in advance in order for them to be made available for the date January 6.
NNAMDIOkay. Got it. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODChief, I will say I was up there and I drove around town. I didn't see any kind of significant disturbance around the city other than, of course, right there at the Capitol were I was. Let me ask you about this, though, a core issue. On Thursday, former D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey who was chief from 1998 until 2007, you worked with him. On CNN in response to a Jake Taper question, Ramsey said, quote, "You certainly can't rule out bias." And then he was saying that the white crowd appeared to be given more leeway than Black protestors and rioters would have been given on Capitol Hill.
SHERWOODRamsey said he thinks the mostly white Capitol Police simply didn't think the white crowd would do what it did. How much do you think racial perceptions, maybe even racism, played in the response to what the Capitol Police did or did not do?
IIIIt's kind of hard for me to answer for Capitol Police what they did or didn't do. There could have been -- again, I'm an African American male. And I think what we've seen over the course of everything that's been going on, a lot of these supporters of our president that were out are normally law enforcement supporters that kind of thing. Perhaps there was a miscalculation. I mean, that would be my guesstimate that there was a miscalculation in terms of what they would or would not do.
IIII think, again, I'm saying this as chief of police. I'm saying this as an African American man. I believe that there was a miscalculation on what they were actually going to be dealing with on their part. I did not make that miscalculation with respect to the Metropolitan Police Department. Our mayor didn't make that miscalculation for our city. I just think in terms of the powers that be those that make -- the decision makers on how -- you know, what their posture would be, I think that they severely underestimated what the response would be.
IIIAnd, again, one other point to point out, I think that everybody around has been saying it. There was some misconception out there. Oh there was no intelligence -- Chief Contee says that there was no intelligence that people were going to storm the Capitol. And I think that that's been mischaracterized. I think there was no specific intelligence where like someone says, hey, I'm going to place a bomb, or I'm going to do this. You know, there was no specific intelligence.
IIIBut certainly as a law enforcement professional in terms of your calculations that's one of the things that you consider, you know, from the Metropolitan Police Department's perspective. It's the reason why we requested National Guard. It's the reason why we requested mutual aid in advance so that if things got bad to the point that we needed those resources. I didn't want to be on the phone in the middle of a dire incident requesting outside resources to come to work. Get ready and respond into the city. Those resources for our D.C. residents, they were here. They were on the ground. They were in the city footprint.
NNAMDIChief, I know that the goal -- the principle goal was to clear the Congress so that members of Congress could get back to work. But others have said, in this case, all these people, who had rioted or were in part of the riot scene were not rounded up and detained and identified and their names taken as they were during the past summer incidents where police cordoned off hundreds of people. Then found out who they were and arrested them and or charged them. Could not have done -- both been done?
IIINo. Tom, and of course ...
SHERWOODYou've heard the criticism.
IIIAs we're making decisions about this in the moment, I can tell you that the first order of business as you mentioned was to get Congress back in the session. But we all know, Washingtonians, we know how huge this building is. The building was unsafe. I had not been swept. We found two bombs. We know that people -- that there were shots fired inside of the Capitol. I mean, we know this. So we got a mob of people, again, this is in the middle of an insurrection, we have a mob of people inside the building.
IIIThe first thing we had to do was get in. Push the people out of the building. I mean, it's almost impossible to have officers standing on the outside. You don't know whether somebody has a bomb strapped to them or whatever. But you have to make the area safe first, and as soon as we made the inside safe, secured it, made sure that there was no gunmen hiding in the wing somewhere waiting for the Congress members to head back into session. You know what I mean? After we made it safe, then the decision was made, Okay, now let's start making arrests. When and only when it was safe to do so.
SHERWOODLet me just very quickly. Now that President Trump has said that he will not attend inaugural, will your guard be let down or will you still be ...
NNAMDIWell, no. Allow me to say this, Chief Contee. We know as Tom just said that President Trump has tweeted that he will not be attending the inaugural. But here's a tweet we got from Dr. Jen Golbeck, who is a computer scientist, professor at the University of Maryland, a frequent presence on this broadcast, she tweeted, "I study the dark murky places on the internet. The people who acted yesterday are planning more and with more violence on January 19th and 20th. Let no one say they could not have foreseen this. Be prepared this time." To which you say what, Chief Contee?
IIIThat we are preparing for that and our posture will not change in terms of going down as a result of what has happened. In fact, we're even or more heightened, alert as a result of what happened. I am right now -- I will be meeting with the command staff of the Metropolitan Police Department here in short order to talk about what our posture is going to be going forward in the coming weeks. The National Guard is still deployed in our city and they will be deployed through inauguration.
IIIIn the city's posture, we've sent a letter requesting the National Guard not just for the U.S. Capitol, but for the city deployment. The deployment that we current have, for that deployment to also mirror what's on the Capitol. That we have folks through inauguration. If anything, our posture is more of an aggressive position and not tamping things down. We can't do that.
NNAMDIWell, Chief Contee, as I said in my billboard you may not have had a baptism of fire, but you certainly had one of grave danger. So I'd like to finish with an email from Alberto who says, "After reading accounts of what transpired, I'd like to thank you D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee, III and your force. I cannot fathom what could have happened without your intervention." So, Chief Contee, thank you very much for joining us and good luck to you.
IIIMy pleasure. Thank you. And happy birthday again.
NNAMDIThank you. Going to take a short break. When we come back, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Joining us now is Tim Kaine. He is a U.S. Senator, representing Virginia. He is a Democrat. Senator Kaine, thank you very much for joining us.
TIM KAINEKojo, Tom, good to be with you today.
NNAMDITom, before we begin specific questions for Tim Kaine, last week, we learned that Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland lost his son, Thomas Bloom Raskin, known as Tommy. He was in his second year at Harvard Law School. In a very moving statement, his parents described his life, his sense of humor, his brilliant mind, his love of animals and concern for the poor. They also shared that Tommy struggled with depression.
NNAMDIAnd, in a beautiful tribute, the community is responding, signing up to do good deeds, large and small, in Tommy's honor. The list will be compiled and shared with Representative Raskin's staff on Sunday, according to a Post article. Well, as you know, Tom, Representative Raskin was a regular guest on this show, even before he was a member of Congress. And on behalf of the show, in general, and The Politics Hour in particular, we extend condolences to the family. And the producer of The Politics Hour, Cydney Grannan, was a personal friend of Tommy Raskin. So, she sends special condolences to the family. Tom Sherwood?
SHERWOODYes. This is the most gut wrenching ending to 2020 for anyone who knows Jamie Raskin and his wife Sarah. Any parent -- I'm a parent, you're a parent -- the idea this can happen is horrible. Suicide is a terrible thing that inflicts so many people year-round. It's not a seasonal thing. You know, the note that Tommy left his parents, it said, "Please forgive me. My illness won today. Please look after each other, the animals and the global poor for me. All my love, Tommy." It's heartbreaking.
NNAMDISenator Kaine, care to comment?
KAINEI know Jamie. I didn't know Tommy, but I was also heartbroken when I saw the news, you guys. And I'll tell you, I am just so struck by -- you're right that depression and suicide is not a seasonal thing, but we're in a mental health crisis in this country right now because of the difficulties of the last year. But the stresses on people, because of this pandemic, because of the economic devastation, because of the isolation, not being able to be together with people that we love in a normal way, because of the shock therapy again and again and again of seeing evidence of racial injustice.
KAINEI have a bill that I'm pushing in the Senate right now to commemorate a beautiful emergency room physician in New York City who's just had a marvelous career, but who died by suicide in April because the intensity of trying to deal with the health crisis, the absence of answers, the desire to help and feeling helpless in the face of it, but also the stigma against seeking treatment for mental health, especially in the medical profession. It's just a very, very hard time, and we've got to be watchful with each other and we've got to provide mental health resources to help people get through this most challenging time.
NNAMDIIndeed, you've been working on a bill that would provide long term help for healthcare workers' mental health. We'd be interested to know at some point how that bill is progressing, but for the moment, you were in the U.S. Capitol when the mob broke in. Can you tell us what that experience was like?
KAINEGuys, it was -- you know, I've said to a friend, it was a day never imagined, never to be forgotten and hopefully never to be repeated. And I am still just furious about it. I am furious that we had a president who incited it. I am furious that I had Senate colleagues who incited and repeated the big lie for months. Senators Hawley and Cruz were sending out fundraising emails during the attack on the Capitol, saying, you know, you should send me money and support my campaign because I'm standing up to try to overturn a stolen election. And I'm just furious about it.
KAINEThe initial reaction, when it happened, was confusion. We were in the chambers. We were debating these meritless objections to certified election results. And the Secret Service ushered Vice-President Pence out of the room. And that's when we began to understand something was up. And within about three minutes, they started to barricade all the doors. We were in the chamber for about 20 minutes to a half hour before we went over to an alternate meeting space that was more secure for Senators in the Hart building.
KAINEWhen we got in, we just said, look, we're going back. We don't care how long it takes. We're going back. We're finishing this today. Make sure the chamber's cleared of any threat, but we want to go back. And it took about five hours for the Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies -- including the Virginia State Police, Arlington Sheriffs and others -- it took about five hours for them to get the chamber in a shape that we could go back.
KAINEBut I am just furious that we have a President of the United States who felt comfortable trying to just burn it all down on his way out the door. And that might've been expected, but the willingness of some Senators to go along with it, I just -- I'm still very emotional about it.
NNAMDIWhat do you think should happen to the president, and what do you think about the several senators who voted to sustain objections to vote counts in Arizona and Pennsylvania, even after the incursion? What do you think should be the consequences for the president and for those colleagues?
KAINESo, for the president, I think there should be two consequences. I believe that, given how short a period of time we have until the Inauguration and beginning to start a better chapter, I really hope that the vice president and Cabinet would invoke the 25th Amendment. And, as you guys know, they can just declare by a majority vote of the Cabinet and vice president that the president is unable to do the job.
KAINEThe president then has a choice. He can just accept it and slink out of town, or if he wants to challenge it, he can, but the challenge basically is a letter to Congress, and ultimately, Congress would vote on it. That is the quickest way for something to happen. There's really not enough time to do a full impeachment in the House and Senate, nor is that the most important thing for the Senate to be focusing on right now. But that's the first thing that should happen.
KAINEAnd the second thing, I called right away, we should make plain to President Trump that he's not welcome at the Inauguration. And, this morning, he tweeted out that he wasn't going to be coming, and that's good, because his presence there would've been an incitement to more violence. Just because he's absent doesn't mean there won't be potential violence, but it will be easier to deal with it if he is far away from that Inauguration ceremony.
KAINEWith respect to Congress, first, we have to do a major investigation of the law enforcement failings that led the Capitol to be overrun. I talked to a Capitol Police officer Thursday morning, and he just said to me in confidence, you guys need to research this, investigate it, get to the bottom and call it like you see it, because the rank-and-file is extremely upset with our leadership. And this particular officer said to me, you know, maybe they had a plan and they asked for resources and they couldn't get the resources. If that was the case, that's one thing. But he and I both suspect that that wasn't the case, that the plan was inadequate. We need to do that.
KAINEAnd then, look, in the Senate -- the House has to take care of its own business, but in the Senate, we have to, you know, analyze what the consequences should be. And, you know, a couple of things, guys, about those who either objected or voted for objections, not a single member had the guts to object to their own states' results. Talk about a freebie. Talk about -- you can just see these, you know, political minds at work.
KAINEIf I'm from Missouri, but I object to the Pennsylvania vote, wow. This is a freebie, because the Pennsylvania voters that I'm trying to disenfranchise en masse can never hold me accountable for it. If I'm a Texas Senator and I vote to disenfranchise Arizonians, they can never hold me accountable, because I represent Texas. Every one of those who voted, voted to disenfranchise the voters in others states, not their own.
KAINEI do think there is a distinction between the instigators and the craven, sheep-like followers, and the instigators were Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. And even in their instigation, each of them was keeping an eye on the other. Josh Hawley got out first to be President Trump's want-a-be an acolyte. And then Ted Cruz is, like, well, what do I do now? I can't just say I agree, because then I'll be following Hawley. I know, I'll get 10 Senators to write a letter with me.
KAINEThe sheepish followers connected their name to a horrible cause that day, but the instigators who were raising funds, sending out fundraising emails as the Capitol was under attack, repeating their big lie, we've got to contemplate what the consequences of that will be.
SHERWOODSenator, I agree with you about that, but I want to speak to you as a citizen of the city for a long time. My great fear, as a citizen, is that as the Congress does an after-action report on what happened on Capitol Hill, that the first impulse -- just as we now have a seven-foot fence going around the Capitol -- is that the people will be shut out even more. There'll be more barriers. There'll be more police checks. There will be more shutdowns. Who knows, maybe they'll even stop the sledding on the west side of Capitol Hill.
SHERWOODI would just encourage you -- and the House administration committee and others on the Senate side -- to react to the bad management of the Capitol Hill Police is not to shut out the American people from the people's house up there. Please don't let that happen.
KAINETom, that's such a good point. And I'll tell you, you know, this obviously comes at the end of a very bizarre year, where the Capitol has been closed to visitors. You know, the visiting delegation from Virginia of the Associated General Contractors or the community service sports coming to the Senate office, that's part of the job, staffers meeting with Virginians, student groups getting tours, people in the gallery maybe visiting from other countries, tourists watching the Senate and the House in action. We haven't had that this year, because of the pandemic.
KAINEWe've got to return -- there's a lot in life that we don't want to return to, you know, the status quo. We don't want to go back to the way it was. But I tell you, we do need to go back to the way it was with respect to people coming into the Capitol. Because that could've been managed on Wednesday very effectively, but we shouldn't penalize the public for the poor management of that security challenge. I completely agree with you.
SHERWOODYeah, let's don't punish thousands, tens of thousands of high school students who come to our city. Let's don't shut them out. Thank you very much for answering that question.
NNAMDITom just can't wait to snowboard down that hill before calling the emergency medical technicians. (laugh)
SHERWOODI wasn't, but now I am.
NNAMDI(laugh) Here is Joe Webb in St. Mary's County, Maryland. Joe, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOE WEBBOh, it's an honor and a pleasure, gentlemen. Representative, thank you all very much. What a terrible day to watch unfold. Fortunately, I didn't watch all of it, which is abnormal for me. I'm normally watching every second of CSPAN or Kojo or somebody in my travels. And thank God I didn't catch that whole day until half the way through the horrific scenes. It was terrible.
JOE WEBBAnd I caught it when the lady was being picked up off the ground from being shot. It was just sickening. And not to be dramatic, but it's like a 9/11, in a way, or another Holocaust or whatever. It was really dramatic for us as a culture.
WEBBSo, that's it. Representative, I just wonder, is anyone entertaining the thought -- because I can't imagine there's any accidents with that situation. I know there'll be a lot of thought that things just kind of all happened at the same time, but more than anything, there was a lot of plans that went into effect and not into effect.
WEBBAnd I wonder if any police officers were in the line of thinking, you know, these guys, they need to know a little bit about what's going on. I just wonder, was any (unintelligible) relation to stop and not protect? Because, for some reason, there were a lot of police officers...
KAINEWell, I'll say...
NNAMDIThere are people who yelled that they saw the Capitol Hill Police officers opening the doors for those people.
KAINEYeah. And I'll say to Joe, look, we've got to get to the bottom of it. I've seen YouTube clips that appear to be Capitol Police officers right near the door to the Capitol moving aside barriers and people coming through. But if you look at a 15-second clip, you often don't really get the full context of what was going on, so you can't base it on that. There were police officers in selfies taken by protesters inside the Capitol. What would've ever explained why that happened?
KAINEI think what we're going to find is there was very (unintelligible). And then in terms of the execution of the plan, such as it was, there were a tremendous number of people who behaved heroically. I mean, we're mourning today the loss of the Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who's a Virginia resident, who'd been on the Capitol Police for about a dozen years. And, you know, he apparently was struck on the head by a fire extinguisher wielded by one of the protesters. Four other people died. This poor, young woman who was shot and died, and then three others who apparently had health conditions and may have had heart attacks or a stroke because of the violence of the events.
KAINESo, we're going to have to get into it. And look, there are going to be people who are going to get commendations for their heroism. And there are going to be people -- and there already have been -- who are going to lose their jobs. And then we're going to figure out -- just as sort of I did in the aftermath of the shooting at Virginia Tech, when I was governor -- we're going to learn everything that went right and everything that went wrong. And then we're going to use everything that went wrong to fix it and make it better for tomorrow.
NNAMDIHere now is Chris in Richmond, Virginia. Chris, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHRISHey, Kojo, thanks for taking my call. And, Senator Kaine, thank you for talking today. My question is related to what you just said, may be a follow up. Clearly, there's a gap in communication coordination across the multiple agencies that oversees security in the Capitol area. Is this perhaps a call for a new coordinated entity, similar to after 9/11, you know, we created the Homeland Security office that brought together multiple agencies under one umbrella. Is it now time to consider something like that for Washington, D.C.?
KAINEYou know, Chris, that's a really good question. You know, my sense in working with our law enforcement agencies is that they do work together pretty well, but there's sort of a, you know, you got to ask for help. And there's reporting today -- I don't think this reporting is definitive yet. It's still too early to completely know everything that happened, but there's reporting today that some of the law enforcement agencies offered in the days in advance, knowing what social media was saying would likely happen, they offered the Capitol Police help. And the Capitol Police said, no, we don't need it. We don't need your assistance. We've got this under control.
KAINEThese relationships, to my, you know, experience, having been both a mayor in Richmond and a governor working in these regional, the relationships tend to be strong, but they do rely on a request for help. And we've got to get to the bottom of whether there were offers of help coming to the Capitol Police that they were turning down, and if so, why.
SHERWOODAs a citizen of the city, I had to jump in here, I do not want federal Homeland Security -- one of the worst bureaucracies in the country -- overseeing the daily ins and outs of D.C. policing. You're correct, there is a regional cooperation agreement with Arlington, with Alexandria, with Montgomery County, Prince George's. And this was not a failure of the police departments around the region. It was, in fact, a failure of the Capitol Police to properly respond. So, let's not talk about a federal police takeover of the local government.
SHERWOODBut, anyway, I think...
KAINEWe have the Inauguration coming up. I was governor during the 2008 Inauguration. We expected record crowds. We also expected there were some threats of violence. And as the governor, I worked very closely with the D.C. mayor. I worked closely with the Maryland governor. I worked closely with the Inaugural Committee and federal law enforcement agencies to do some things like, you know, shutting down roads into D.C. and doing a whole bunch of things.
KAINEAnd except for the people who got trapped in the tunnel of doom when they were trying to walk around...
SHERWOODI was in there.
KAINE...the day actually worked out pretty well. We didn't need to create a new agency. We had the communication. So, I think the communication is okay, and the agencies have a track record of cooperating, but it all starts with an ask. And if the (unintelligible)...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Can I...
KAINE...that's going to be part of the solution.
SHERWOODIf Kojo will let me, I have to ask a political question, because it seems like it was months ago, but it was just last week, the Senate flipped over to the Democrats with a win of two Democratic Senators in Georgia. You have been in the minority for so long, and now you're going to be in the majority. You're on the Armed Services Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee. What does it mean in terms of your -- you're like in the top one-third of seniority in the Senate now. Will you be chairman of a committee? If so, which one?
KAINETom, I'm not going to be a full committee chair, because Democrats do the committee chairs by seniority. And I'm still not high enough in seniority on the Democratic side to do it. But I will be likely the chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee of Armed Services, which is a very important one. And also, I will likely be the chair of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee and the Foreign Relations Committee. So, I'm very excited about it.
KAINEAnd I'll tell you, here's what I've learned being -- I was in the majority for two years when I came in, and then I've been in the minority for six years. The best thing about being in the majority is you can control the workflow. You can control what, you know, your committee's and subcommittee's hearing are about. You can control when you schedule a markup of legislation or a vote on a nominee. And then the majority leader gets to decide what bills get called up on the floor.
KAINEThe most frustrating thing about being in the minority is you can suggest to the majority what the hearing should be about or that you want to vote on your bill in committee or you want to take something up on the floor. But if they're bound and determined, we're not going to have a vote on the $2,000 stimulus check, guess what? They can mark it. So, I love the fact that Democrats will have the opportunity now to put the matters before the body and before the public that we want. And then we'll have to, you know, win the votes on them, obviously, but at least we can control the agenda.
SHERWOODAnd maybe (unintelligible) will come up.
NNAMDII was about to say -- I was about to say, for many D.C. residents, statehood is a huge priority. Where does that fall on your agenda, and will 50 Democratic Senators be enough to pass that, or will the filibuster get in the way?
KAINEWe need to do it, guys. It's a fundamental civil rights and justice issue that, you know, has just been too long unaddressed. And so, I'm a cosponsor of the statehood legislation for D.C., very much want to do it. I have not spent enough time with Republican colleagues to know, are there 10 votes there? Because under current Senate rules, for something like this to happen -- and the House's simple majority would be fine -- but in the Senate, we would need ten Republican votes.
KAINEAs long as the Republican majority would block any consideration of the matter, it wasn't necessary to whip whether we had the votes or not. Now we have to do it. And, you know, look, I'm not interested in changing rules to change rules. None of my constituents ever come up to me talking about the Senate rules. But they do come up asking for us to act on increasing the minimum wage or doing things to promote gun safety or, you know, comprehensive immigration reform or D.C. statehood.
KAINESo, look, if we can do those things with no adjustments to rules, great. But if what we suddenly find is that the Biden-Harris administration is getting blocked repeatedly by the use of arcane Senate procedures that aren't required, I'm going to focus on getting the job done for people. And D.C. statehood is a significant priority of mine.
NNAMDIOn a clarification, Senator Kaine, the U.S. Capitol Police have come under fire for not adequately preparing for what turned into a violent mob. As we mentioned earlier yesterday, the chief of the Capitol Police resigned. How is this -- what kind of investigation is likely to take place of what the U.S. Capitol Police did or did not do on Wednesday?
KAINESo, Kojo, I think, at a minimum, the investigation will be the two committees in each House that sort of both oversee the Capitol complex, but also oversee security and even the conduct of this joint meeting that we had on the 6th. So, in the Senate, the Rules Committee ran the joint meeting, and including discussions about what security was needed for that day. The Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, HSGAC, sort of oversees just the operation of government issues and some homeland security. So, domestic attacks of violent mobs would sort of fit within its purview.
KAINESo, I think the Rules Committee and the HSGAC committee in the Senate, and then there are equivalent committees in the House, and so that is what will be done at a minimum. I think then the question is: You know, does there need to be some additional independent analysis? You don't want to, you know, have more committees just for the sake of having more committees.
KAINEI do think the committees of jurisdiction in both Houses can get to the bottom of it. But if they determine that, you know, a panel of law enforcement experts who aren't politicians with Ds or Rs after their name, you know, might be able to offer wisdom that would seem nonpartisan and just really focused on the security questions, that might be a wise thing to consider.
NNAMDIWe only have about a minute left but I'm sure Tom Sherwood would like to know, are you supporting anyone in the governor's race in Virginia this year?
KAINEYou know, the answer to that is no. I traditionally do not get in and support in Virginia races, candidates in primaries, just because I know them all so well. And I also know that there'll be plenty of time for me to help when the primaries are over. So, as you know, in Virginia we're going to have multiple candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. I'm close to all of them. I like all of them, and I'll work really hard for the winner in January.
KAINEThe only thing that would make me rethink my decision is if Kojo Nnamdi, who's birthday is today, were contemplating throwing his hat in the ring, I would still probably decide that neutrality was the best policy.
NNAMDIWell, thank you very much. I will think about announcing my candidacy. Senator Kaine, thank you for joining us. Today's Politics Hour was produced by Cydney Grannan. Coming up Monday, the insurrection in the nation's Capitol may have pulled attention away from the coronavirus, but the pandemic is still raging, including a new, more contagious variant. Dr. Leana Wen joins us to discuss the latest.
NNAMDIThen it's Kojo for Kids, with New York Times Best-Selling graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier. Find out why she's one of the most popular authors in the kids' section. That all starts Monday, at noon. Until then, you have a great weekend. Tom Sherwood, stay safe.
NNAMDII'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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