House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called for the Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton to step down or be removed by President Biden, adding to bipartisan outrage over an inspector general report that found he misused a government vehicle and allegedly impersonated a law enforcement officer, among other ethics issues.
“The Architect of the Capitol, Brett Blanton, no longer has my confidence to continue in his job. He should resign or President Biden should remove him immediately,” McCarthy said in a tweet on Monday.
McCarthy joins House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) and ranking member Joseph Morelle (D-N.Y.) in calling for the resignation of the Architect of the Capitol, who oversees the Capitol complex’s building maintenance, preservation and development.
“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. I look forward to continuing to conduct robust oversight to ensure our government is accountable to the American people,” Steil said in a statement on Monday.
Morelle called for Blanton’s resignation last week.
An inspector general report released in October found that Blanton and his family had misused Architect of the Capitol vehicles intended for home-to-work use as personal vehicles, resulting in nearly $14,000 worth of inappropriate costs.
The report also found that Blanton had been improperly identified as an off-duty police officer during an incident when he chased down a hit-and-run that happened outside his residence. Blanton denied misrepresenting himself as law enforcement, saying that it was a mistake on the part of Fairfax County Police after Blanton identified himself a “Capitol Police Board Member.”
House lawmakers grilled Blanton over the report in a House Administration hearing last week, where Blanton pushed back on the report.
Blanton said in the hearing that he used the vehicle during an out-of-state family vacation because he was “under the impression that I had to use that vehicle” so he could have quick communication with the Capitol Police Board in case of any emergency.
“I wholeheartedly reject any assertion that I engaged in unethical behavior during my service to this country,” Blanton said in the hearing.
Asked about the report earlier this month, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the White House is “taking this very seriously” and will “take any advice that the members of Congress or any action that they want to take very seriously.”
Blanton was nominated by former President Trump to a 10-year term as Architect of the Capitol and was confirmed by the Senate in December 2019.
The Architect of the Capitol is one of three members of the board that oversees the Capitol Police, along with the House and Senate Sergeants at Arms. The board and its structure, as well as its ability to quickly authorize outside assistance during emergencies, came under scrutiny after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.
Blanton said in last week’s hearing that his vehicle served as the Architect of the Capitol’s “mobile command post” during Jan. 6, 2021, during the Capitol attack, and did not go to the Capitol during the attack because “there would have been next to no way to get onto this campus.”
His explanation of being off campus during the day of Jan. 6 enraged some lawmakers.
“I am outraged to hear that you were 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,” Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said during the hearing, saying that a police officer could not close or lock a door because he did not have the keys. “Outrageous that you were not here.”
Torres called for Blanton’s resignation shortly after the hearing.
Rep. Gregory Murphy (R-N.C.) took issue with the Architect of the Capitol’s office having a telework policy, though Blanton said he is now going to the Capitol “effectively every day of the week.”
“It absolutely blows me away,” Murphy said, why Blanton “as Architect of the Capitol — Architect of the Capitol — why you are not here physically every day, all day.”