Biden Removes the Top Capitol Facilities Official Amid Allegations of Wrongdoing

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Monday fired J. Brett Blanton, the federal official responsible for the maintenance and operation of the Capitol complex, amid bipartisan calls for his resignation after an investigative report accusing him of misusing his position and revelations that he avoided the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

Mr. Blanton, who was appointed in 2019 as the architect of the Capitol, had been under scrutiny since last fall after a report by the inspector general of his office documented evidence supporting serious allegations against him. Among the accusations were that he had misused government-issued vehicles, misled investigators and impersonated a police officer on multiple occasions.

But concerns among lawmakers in both parties intensified at a 90-minute hearing on Friday in which Mr. Blanton gave noncommittal and at times contradictory answers about his conduct, including his decision to stay away from the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot.

On Monday morning, Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter that Mr. Blanton “no longer has my confidence to continue in his job,” and should resign or be removed by Mr. Biden.

A White House official said that after conducting due diligence on the matter, the president had directed that Mr. Blanton be fired.

Representative Joseph D. Morelle of New York, the top Democrat on the House Administration Committee, which oversees Capitol operations, said in a statement that he agreed with the decision.

“President Biden did the right thing and heeded my call for action,” he said.

The architect of the Capitol’s office did not respond to requests for comment on Mr. Blanton’s removal.

Understand the Events on Jan. 6

  • Timeline: On Jan. 6, 2021, 64 days after Election Day 2020, a mob of supporters of President Donald J. Trump raided the Capitol. Here is a close look at how the attack unfolded.
  • A Day of Rage: Using thousands of videos and police radio communications, a Times investigation reconstructed in detail what happened — and why.
  • Lost Lives: A bipartisan Senate report found that at least seven people died in connection with the attack.
  • Jan. 6 Attendees: To many of those who attended the Trump rally but never breached the Capitol, that date wasn’t a dark day for the nation. It was a new start.

The inspector general report found that Mr. Blanton and his family had repeatedly made personal use of government-issued vehicles intended for day-to-day operations at the Capitol and official emergencies. Mr. Blanton, who used the vehicles to travel to locations including South Carolina and Florida while he was on vacation, racked up mileage that was almost three times more than anticipated. The inspector general’s report found that the vehicle misuse equated to about $14,000 in unreported tax benefits.

Mr. Blanton admitted to using his vehicles for personal trips, but said he had done so in case he had to rush back to the Capitol for an emergency. The report found that when Mr. Blanton’s office purchased one of the vehicles, he asked that the GPS tracking device be removed and that the government license plates be replaced with Washington, D.C., plates, which investigators noted made it more difficult to track or report for complaints.

At the hearing last week before the administration panel, as he tried to justify the use of his government car, Mr. Blanton further infuriated lawmakers when he admitted that he was not present during the Jan. 6 attack.

He said he had been coordinating with his team over the phone andvia a radio system installed in his official vehicle instead of going to the Capitol that day because he thought it would not be “prudent” to drive to work as thousands of protesters blocked access to the complex.

That drew indignant responses from lawmakers in both parties.

“I’m trying to understand why you physically weren’t here on a pretty important day,” Representative Terri A. Sewell, Democrat of Alabama, said at the hearing. “Especially given the fact that you have access to information — being on the Capitol Police Board — about potential problems that we have on this campus.”

Representative Stephanie Bice, Republican of Oklahoma, said she found it “mind-blowing” that he was not present, noting how he knew “probably a lot more than we did that day.”

Mr. Blanton was one of the Capitol’s top security officials, overseeing more than 18.4 million square feet of facilities, 570 acres of grounds and 2,000 employees. He was also one of three voting members on the Capitol Police Board — along with the top security officials in the House and the Senate — which oversees the Capitol Police force and has decision-making power relating to security around the complex.

He had previously testified to the House Appropriations Committee that he had a limited role in the strategic planning around Jan. 6. Mr. Blanton said he was not included in conversations about calling for the National Guard to assist with the violence that day with the other members of the Capitol Police Board.

Lawmakers also raised concerns about the allegation that Mr. Blanton had impersonated a police officer. According to the report, he used one of his official vehicles, equipped with police lights and sirens, to pursue a car that had hit a car belonging to his daughter’s boyfriend. Mr. Blanton is listed on a police report from the scene as an “off-duty D.C. police officer.”

In another instance, Mr. Blanton’s vehicle was bumped in a parking lot and he identified himself as an “agent” when the driver asked for his insurance information, according to the report.

He was also accused of offering friends private tours of the Capitol while it was closed to the public during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Blanton, who was appointed by former President Donald J. Trump, denied the allegations in the report, which he said was filled with errors, omissions and mischaracterizations.

“I wholeheartedly reject any assertion that I have engaged in unethical behavior during my service to this country,” he said in his testimony.

The hearing was Mr. Blanton’s first public response to the report, which was completed in October 2021 but not released until October 2022.

Representative Bryan Steil, Republican of Wisconsin and the chairman of the Administration Committee, said he was disappointed that the previous Congress had not conducted better oversight of the architect of the Capitol’s office.

“As chairman, I can assure you that accountability starts today,” Mr. Steil said.

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