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Lawmakers Reach Bipartisan Deal For Commission Investigating Capitol Insurrection

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The standoff keeping Congress from investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol complex may be ending, or there may be a showdown in the House of Representatives this week. House Democrats have announced a deal with a key Republican to create a bipartisan commission to look into the siege and to recommend security changes, but Republican leaders haven't yet signed on.

Russel Honore is the retired lieutenant general who led a Capitol security task force immediately after the January assault by Trump supporters, and he joins us now. Good morning.

RUSSEL HONORE: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Under the deal struck by the top Democrat and Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, this commission would deliver a non-partisan government-wide look into the attack. It would explain why law enforcement wasn't more on the ball. And it would make recommendations to avoid a repeat. Is that something that you'd be interested in participating in? Have you been asked to?

HONORE: No. And I've done my part.

(LAUGHTER)

HONORE: I served my country. We did a five-week study and turn that into the Congress, which they're about to act on this week simultaneously, which is called a supplemental, about a $1.9 billion infusion of money to hire more police, increase the intelligence capacity and harden the Capitol. That's - our contribution was to this effort, knowing that a more detailed look needed to be done. That's why they're doing the commission. But we've given them the quick things they need to do now to take action to more training, more equipment for the Capitol Police.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you do feel that this is necessary?

HONORE: I do feel it's necessary. I think there are many people with a lot of questions. The Congress themselves have questions. And, of course, many members of Congress were victims themselves that day, as they - many of them shared with us when we were speaking with them how terrified they were being in the Capitol and being this close to being assaulted.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sir, Republican leaders have demanded that any new investigation also include a study of Black Lives Matter and antifa. What do you think of that requirement?

HONORE: Personally, I think the commission needs to focus on what happened on 1/6. But that's a personal opinion. It's not related to the mission we had working for the Congress to do the review. But I think it would serve the nation best to focus on what happened on 1/6.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to talk to you a bit about the sort of wider context here, which is the security of the Capitol itself. Where do you think is the right place to draw the line between the kind of openness and free access a democracy requires and the necessary level of security for such a high-risk target? I live in D.C., and I can and I can tell you that it is uncomfortable to see these sort of physical barriers in these spaces that used to have, you know, open access.

HONORE: Well, that's a good observation. And that was the hard part of our task, to make recommendations to the architect of the Capitol and the Capitol Police Board, which is led by the House and Senate sergeant-at-arms, as well as the committees - is to have an integrated defense system with up-to-date sensors and cameras similar to what they have at the Pentagon - at the same time, have the Capitol be open to the public. And to do that, we need more officers. And we need that technology. And we recommend it along with the Corps of Engineers to put some retrievable fencing that could go - come out of the ground as needed to handle a crowd that's trying to rush the Capitol, as well as to harden the doors on the Capitol and to have a standby reaction force in the Capitol Police and a standby National Guard troops of up to 500 that would be kept at the armory.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sir...

HONORE: So all of those are part of the recommendations to have the Capitol open to the public.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sir, those obviously will deal with an external threat. But do you think any members themselves present a risk to Congress? And what would you recommend if that's the case? Because that's certainly the feeling among some in the Democratic caucus.

HONORE: Well, some members that I've heard publicly express that - I think would be a number of Capitol Police, and the members of Congress have to police themselves when it comes to this type of actions. And I've heard members tell us this in conversations when we were interviewing with them, and that's something they're going to have to deal with internally.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's retired Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore. Thank you very much.

HONORE: (Unintelligible).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.