About Us | Contact Us

Biden fires top Capitol Hill official following a report alleging abuse of power

President Joe Biden fired Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton on Monday, according to a White House official, following a report that he had abused his authority and misused taxpayer money overseeing the Capitol complex.

“After conducting our due diligence, we terminated the Architect of [the] Capitol at the President’s direction,” the official said in a statement.

Blanton’s office has been contacted by NBC News for comment.

Blanton was fired months after an inspector general’s report found that he had abused his authority. As he testified before the House Administration Committee last week, he was pressed about those findings and other issues, such as his absence from the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.

Blanton stated during the hearing that he was “frustrated by the current distraction created by the inspector general’s report.”

“I categorically deny any allegation that I engaged in unethical behaviour while serving this country,” he said.

Committee Chair Bryan Steil, R-Wis., demanded Blanton’s resignation on Monday, saying that his “refusal to be transparent and truthful has made clear that he can no longer lead the organisation and must resign immediately.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., echoed the call, tweeting that Blanton “no longer has my confidence to continue in his job.”

“He should resign, or President Biden should immediately remove him,” McCarthy wrote.

Because the architect of the Capitol is a presidential appointee confirmed by the Senate, Blanton could only be removed by the president. Former President Donald Trump nominated Blanton for a 10-year term, which began in January 2020.

“I agree with the president’s decision to fire the architect,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told NBC News.

“Having dealt with this guy for a while, we took a look at the whole situation, and I think the president made the right decision,” he said.

Blanton, according to the inspector general’s report, abused his government vehicle by driving it to vacation destinations and allowing his family to use it for personal matters. According to the report, Blanton misrepresented his government position, at one point chasing down a vehicle described as being involved in a hit-and-run and misrepresenting himself as a law enforcement official. In another instance, he referred to himself as a “agent” after being involved in an accident at a brewery while on vacation, according to the report.

The misuse of the government vehicle cost “no less than $13,926.56 in net questioned costs,” according to the report.

Blanton insisted at last week’s hearing that he needed to take the car on personal errands and vacations in case he needed to return to the Capitol or respond to an emergency, because it was outfitted with certain communications devices. He referred to it as “an alternate work site,” and he claimed that switching vehicles would slow him down.

“If I’m at Home Depot and something happens, there will be a delay in getting a response to the Capitol,” Blanton explained to lawmakers.

Rep. Joe Morelle, D-New York, questioned how that squared with the inspector general’s report, which found that Blanton’s wife and daughter would sometimes drive without him. “You’d have to discuss it with members of my family,” Blanton replied.

Morelle also pressed him on why he didn’t drive to the Capitol on Jan. 6, which he described as the “greatest emergency the Capitol has faced in the last two centuries.”

Because of the crowds, Blanton said it “would not have been prudent” to drive to the Capitol that day, and he instead used the car as his “mobile command centre” during the attack.

Morelle praised Biden for doing “the right thing” by dismissing Blanton in a statement released on Monday.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to immediately begin a search for a new Architect,” he said.

After the Jan. 6 riot, Blanton was the only member of the Capitol Police Board who still had a job. The board is made up of the House sergeant at arms, the Senate sergeant at arms and doorkeeper, and the Capitol architect.

Leave a Comment