“I continued to contact Mr. Irving, who was with Mr. Stenger at the time, and he advised him to await feedback from the Congress administration but was expecting approval any minute,” Chief Sund said in his letter.
However, it appears that Mr. Irving, who Chief Sund had said days earlier that he did not want National Guard troops in the Capitol on January 6 because of poor “optics”, waited 30 minutes after hearing from the Capitol Police Chief before he turned to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff. Neither Mr. Irving nor Mr. Stenger, who both resigned after the uprising, responded to several requests for an interview. Mr. Sund resigned on January 7th under pressure from Congress officials.
At 1:40 p.m., Mr. Irving finally approached Terri McCullough, Ms. Pelosi’s chief of staff, and other staff in the speaker lobby behind the chamber of the house – the place where a Capitol police officer would shoot a riot an hour later. It was the first time Mr. Irving asked permission to seek assistance from the National Guard, according to Drew Hammill, Assistant Chief of Staff to Ms. Pelosi.
Ms. McCullough immediately entered the room and gave Ms. Pelosi a message asking her. The video from the chamber shows her approaching the speaker at 1:43 p.m. Ms. Pelosi agreed to the motion and asked if Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican of Kentucky who was the majority leader at the time, should also approve it. Ms. McCullough said he did it, according to Ms. Pelosi’s office.
Ms. McCullough left the chamber to call Mr. McConnell’s Chief of Staff, Sharon Soderstrom, but was unable to reach her. She then reached Mr. Irving, who stated that, according to Ms. Pelosi’s office, he and Mr. Stenger had already met with the staff of the Senate Majority Leader in the Senate Sergeant’s office.
At the meeting in Mr. Stenger’s office, Mr. McConnell’s staff first learned of Chief Sund’s request for the National Guard, according to a Senator spokesman. At that meeting, aides to the Congress leaders, including Ms. Soderstrom, were at a loss when they learned that the two NCOs had not yet approved the request for troops, according to spokesmen for Mr. McConnell and Ms. Pelosi.
There was also confusion as to whether approval from Congress leaders was required to call in National Guard troops. Mr McConnell’s staff claim that political leaders are not in that chain of command and that security officials should have done so as soon as possible. A former Capitol security officer said the two NCOs could have made the request themselves, but even in an emergency, “common sense” dictates that they should consult with congressional officials.