“I continued to follow up with Mr. Irving, who was with Mr. Stenger at the time, and he advised that he was waiting to hear back from congressional leadership, but expected authorization at any moment,” Chief Sund said in his letter.
Yet it appears that Mr. Irving, who had told Chief Sund days earlier that he did not want National Guard troops at the Capitol on Jan. 6 because of bad “optics,” waited 30 minutes after hearing from the Capitol Police chief before approaching Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff. Neither Mr. Irving nor Mr. Stenger, who both resigned after the riot, responded to multiple requests for an interview. Mr. Sund resigned on Jan. 7, after pressure from congressional leaders.
At 1:40 p.m., Mr. Irving finally approached Ms. Pelosi’s chief of staff, Terri McCullough, and other staff members in the Speaker’s Lobby behind the House chamber — the site where a Capitol Police officer would shoot a rioter an hour later. It was the first time Mr. Irving asked about permission to seek support from the National Guard, according to Drew Hammill, Ms. Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff.
Ms. McCullough immediately entered the room and passed a note to Ms. Pelosi with the request. Video from inside the chamber shows her approaching the speaker at 1:43 p.m. Ms. Pelosi approved the request and asked whether Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who was then the majority leader, also needed to approve it. Ms. McCullough said he did, according to Ms. Pelosi’s office.
Ms. McCullough left the chamber to call Mr. McConnell’s chief of staff, Sharon Soderstrom, but could not reach her. She then reached Mr. Irving, who explained that he and Mr. Stenger were already meeting with the Senate majority leader’s staff in the office of the Senate sergeant-at-arms, according to Ms. Pelosi’s office.
It was at the meeting in Mr. Stenger’s office that Mr. McConnell’s staff first learned of Chief Sund’s request for the National Guard, according to a spokesman for the senator. In that meeting, aides to the congressional leaders, including Ms. Soderstrom, were perplexed to learn that the two sergeants-at-arms had not yet approved the request for troops, according to spokesmen for Mr. McConnell and Ms. Pelosi.
There was also confusion about whether approval from congressional leaders was needed to request National Guard troops. Mr. McConnell’s staff maintains that political leaders are not in that chain of command, and that security officials should have done so as quickly as possible. One former Capitol security official said the two sergeants-at-arms could have made the request themselves, but that even in an emergency, “common sense dictates” that they would want to consult with congressional leadership.