President Biden dismissed Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton Monday amid calls from lawmakers of both parties for him to step down over allegations that he misused government property and impersonated a law enforcement officer — and following Blanton’s admission that he stayed away from the Capitol building during the 2021 riot by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
“After doing our due diligence, the Architect of the Capitol was terminated at the President’s direction,” a White House official said in a statement.
Just before news broke of Blanton’s firing, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted that Blanton “no longer has my confidence to continue in his job.
“He should resign or President Biden should remove him immediately,” McCarthy added.
Blanton had appeared before the Committee on House Administration last week to respond to a watchdog report from October, which claimed that he misused his agency vehicle at taxpayer expense and misrepresented himself as a law enforcement officer during a hit-and-run near his residence.
The report also found Blanton allowed unauthorized use of his work vehicle, including by his wife and teenaged daughter, who racked up nearly 30,000 miles — about triple the estimate for official use. The watchdog also found that Blanton had taken the vehicles as far from the nation’s capital as South Carolina and Florida.
In response to the latter claim, Blanton said that he needed his agency car close at hand in the event he had to rush back to Washington. However, he undercut his own argument by noting that he also took care to arrange vacations where he could quickly arrange military transport to the Capitol — invalidating his purported need for the car.
During the hearing, Blanton also admitted that he wasn’t at the Capitol during the riot because he didn’t think it would be “prudent” to drive in that day, infuriating lawmakers who were trapped in the building while attempting to count the 2020 Electoral College votes.
Instead of being on scene, Blanton said he used his agency vehicle as a “mobile command post,” monitoring events on police radio and directing his personnel.
“I find it mind-blowing that the head of the AOC, the leader, knowing what you knew — probably a lot more than we did that day — would not have been in this building ensuring the safety and security not only of the building but of the employees that you lead,” Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) said at the hearing.
“I’m outraged that you would be in a comfortable place, sir, while the rest of us were thinking about dying that day and how we were going to come out alive that day,” raged Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.). “Outrageous that you were not here.”
Committee chairman Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) said in a statement on Monday that Blanton “can no longer lead.”
“The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) plays a key role in preserving the Capitol campus and should be focused on ensuring the institution works for Members, Committees, staff, and most importantly, the American people,” Steil said.
“The Inspector General’s report was highly concerning, which is, in part, why our first hearing was dedicated to providing oversight over the AOC. His refusal to be transparent and truthful has made clear that he can no longer lead the organization and must resign immediately,” he added.
The AOC’s office is responsible for maintaining many of the notable buildings on Capitol Hill, including the Capitol itself, House and Senate offices, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.
The Architect of the Capitol also serves on the Capitol Police Board, which oversees the force and is in charge of security arrangements.
“I wholeheartedly reject any assertion that I have engaged in unethical behavior during my service to this country while serving in this particular role, I have taken my commitment to transform the agency’s culture to promote positive workplace for every AOC employee,” Blanton said at the hearing.
“Moreover, I have fully invested to ensure that I meet the responsibilities and the expectations of this role,” he added.
Blanton was nominated for a ten-year term as AOC by Trump in December 2019 and was sworn in the following January. A 22-year veteran of the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps, Blanton retired from the service in 2015 and became deputy vice president for engineering at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority — which oversees Ronald Reagan Washington National and Dulles International airports in northern Virginia.
With Post wires
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