As questions continue to swirl over the lack of security preceding and during the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Republicans, with the help of former President Donald Trump’s allies in the media, are attempting to deflect criticisms to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), suggesting that she is somehow responsible for the attack and intentionally withheld the National Guard from protecting the Capitol that day.
Recently, Pelosi announced a “9/11-style commission” to investigate the insurrection and security failures. Republicans responded by directly questioning whether Pelosi herself withheld security measures on January 6, possibly for the “political theater.”
Four GOP members of Congress have written a letter to Pelosi accusing her of personally delaying security on January 6 -- citing, in part, a letter written to Pelosi by former Capitol Hill Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned on January 7 amid pressure following the security failures. In the letter, Sund makes the case that the intelligence community as a whole missed signs that there would be a coordinated attack on the Capitol and alleges that his prior requests for the National Guard were rejected.
Republican lawmakers and conservative media have seized on this letter to suggest that Pelosi personally withheld security, rejected requests for the National Guard, and was solely responsible for security on January 6 as the speaker of the House. Pelosi oversaw Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving -- who reportedly rejected the requests for the National Guard and has since resigned -- but reports indicate Irving never spoke to Pelosi about the request. Pelosi is also not directly responsible for Capitol Police, as some Republicans and their media allies are suggesting.
Now, Republican lawmakers are rushing to right-wing media outlets to suggest that Pelosi may have endangered their lives by rejecting security measures, asking some variation of: “What did Pelosi know, and when did she know it?” Conservative media have in turn dutifully worked to boost these Republicans and disseminate the talking point throughout the right-wing social media ecosystem.
Ironically, though, these same figures have largely avoided criticizing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who had the same degree of oversight over Irving’s sergeant-at-arms counterpart in the Senate.
- Fox host Laura Ingraham hosted Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who signed the letter to Pelosi’s office, to peddle suspicions about Pelosi’s role in the insurrection. Ingraham introduced the upcoming segment by rhetorically asking, “What was Nancy Pelosi's role in allowing the circumstances to exist that opened the door for the hideous January 6 riots?”
- Fox host Sean Hannity hosted Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz, who had just written a Fox column on 13 questions Pelosi needs to be asked about security. Chaffetz claimed that Pelosi has “been in charge for years. She hasn't learned how to protect herself, members of Congress, the Capitol complex. The National Guard was ready to go. Why didn't those things happen?”
- Fox & Friends hosted Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who said that Pelosi “will have a lot of questions to answer about what she knew leading up to the riot.”
- On Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, Bartiromo cited Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) saying that Democrats didn’t want any witnesses in Trump’s second impeachment because Republicans were going to ask what Pelosi “knew and when,” saying, “She's overseeing the Capitol Police; why wasn't there more security in place?” Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows claimed that Trump offered 10,000 National Guard troops, which Pelosi rejected. Meadows stated, “When the truth comes out, we'll see that indeed there were other decisions that could have been made by Speaker Pelosi and others that weren't made.”
- Fox anchor Harris Faulkner hosted Fox contributor Sean Duffy, who said that “Republicans are asking questions about what did Nancy Pelosi know and when did she know it?” Duffy said that Pelosi’s statement “refusing to answer the question makes it seem like … Nancy probably knew more than she is letting on and is trying to play politics as a distraction so questions aren't asked.” Harris asked, “If it comes out, do other people start to get impeached now? I'm not being facetious. I want to know who knew about it.”
- Spicer & Co. co-hosts Sean Spicer and Lyndsay Keith hosted Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), and Keith commented, “There's a lot of people out there that actually want to know what Nancy Pelosi thinks and what she knew at the time.” Turner said, “If it turns out that Nancy Pelosi turned down additional protection of the Capitol she may have, in the end, brought forth articles of impeachment because she turned down appropriate protection for the Capitol.”
- Newsmax anchor Shaun Kraisman asked Trump impeachment attorney David Schoen several questions about Pelosi and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, including: “Was your team prepared to call on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to maybe find out what she knew about the riots? Did she know of anything that could potentially happen before January 6? Would you have called Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., to ask her what she knew before January 6?”
- In the following hour of Newsmax’s The National Report, anchor Emma Rechenberg prompted Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) to address speculation that Pelosi “denied” a “request for more security.” Hice responded, “We obviously need to get some answers. I want to know what Nancy Pelosi knew beforehand.”
One America News
- One America News anchor Stephanie Hamill hosted Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) to talk about Pelosi’s handling of security. Steube told Hamill that “Speaker Pelosi is in charge of everything at the House” and that “it's her responsibility as speaker of the House; this is the safety and security of the House.”
- One America News anchor Jennifer Franco boosted Sen. Tom Cotton's (R-AR) comments about Pelosi, saying, “Cotton also noted that Pelosi has a lot of explaining to do regarding the lack of security at the Capitol during the unrest on January 6.” Franco aired a segment featuring political correspondent John Hines extensively interviewing Rep. James Comer (R-KY) on the letter he sent Pelosi. Hines asked if it is "likely or is it possible then that [Pelosi] was somehow responsible for denying a request for National Guard support on January 6, sir, or before that?” Comer responded that he and other co-signatories of the letter want “to find out, what did Nancy Pelosi know and when did she know it?”
- The following day, One America News re-aired the video package featuring Hines interviewing Comer.
Social media, websites, and blogs
- Republican National Committee national spokesperson Liz Harrington tweeted: “President Trump offered 10,000 troops to protect DC. Why didn't the Pentagon, Muriel Bowser, or Nancy Pelosi do anything?”
- Center for Security Policy’s J. Michael Waller tweeted a long thread arguing that it “looks like Pelosi is covering up the reasons why there was insufficient security at the US Capitol on January 6.” Waller asked, “Did Pelosi purposely create the stage, as political theater, for the US Capitol Police to be overrun?”
- Students for Trump’s Ryan Fournier tweeted that Sund “wrote a letter to Nancy Pelosi that directly refutes the claim that President Trump caused the insurrection.”
- Breitbart published an article titled “House Republicans Grill Pelosi for Answers Regarding January 6 Capitol Riot,” writing that they are “demanding answers on key security decisions made in the days leading up to the January 6 Capitol riot.”
- Right-wing YouTuber Joey Saladino posted a video titled “Pelosi WITHHELD National Guard During Capitol Riot?”
- Conservative disgraced commentator Dinesh D’Souza tweeted: “Did Nancy Pelosi refuse security for the Capitol on January 6 because she knew what was coming, and wanted to put the blame on Trump?”
- Right-wing organization Judicial Watch tweeted: “The public has a right to know about how Congress handled security and what all the videos show of the US Capitol riot. What are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer trying to hide from the American people?”