The discovery of a pipe bomb outside the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington on Jan. 6 prompted police to evacuate two congressional buildings, not, as was believed, the attack on the U.S. Capitol, senators heard Tuesday.
U.S. Capitol Police learned of the discovery of two pipe bombs on Capitol Hill around the same time, just before 1 p.m. ET that Wednesday. Capitol Police responded to one bomb discovered by an RNC staff member at the organization’s office, just a few blocks from the Capitol. Metropolitan Police Department officers responded to a second pipe bomb that was spotted outside the nearby Democratic National Committee headquarters. Each department sent officers to respond, hurting the Capitol Police’s ability to secure the Capitol since MPD was called to the Capitol minutes after the bombs were discovered.
“That resulted in the evacuation of two congressional buildings, the Cannon House Office Building, as well as one of the Library of Congress buildings. So it took extensive resources,” then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said in a joint hearing before the Senate Rules Committee and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Tuesday afternoon.
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“So the assault on the Capitol is not what caused the evacuations of those buildings? The discovery of those pipe bombs is what caused the evacuations of those?” asked Republican Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford.
“That is correct,” said Sund.
The two pipe bombs found that day each contained timing devices. The bombs were each about 12 inches long by an inch and a half wide. The steel pipe devices were made with a battery, steel wool, and an unknown explosive powder. One of them was found with a cellphone that may have been meant to detonate it. Both departments ran tests on the bombs simultaneously and determined both improvised explosive devices were legitimate threats. The bombs were not triggered and were later defused by federal agents from the FBI.
The DNC and RNC offices are located on the south side of the U.S. Capitol, just a block from offices for the House of Representatives. At the time the bombs were discovered, thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters had trespassed onto Capitol Hill and rioted, overtaking the Capitol following a speech on the National Mall by Trump.
The FBI is still looking for the pipe bomb suspect and is offering $100,000 in reward money for information leading to the location, arrest, and conviction of suspects involved in the bomb plot.