Before Christmas, Daily Kos reached out to Rep. Ayanna Pressley to ask for an update on an investigation into panic buttons that were missing from her office when the insurrection at the Capitol exploded.
According to the Massachusetts Democrat and her chief of staff, Sarah Groh, the button—which allows lawmakers to rapidly request help in an emergency—was “torn out.” While many offices do not have the buttons, Pressley’s office did; Groh said repeatedly over the last year when speaking to reporters that the button had even been tested before.
It was there, at one point, and it worked.
But when Pressley and her husband, Conan Harris, were busy trying to barricade themselves in the Democrat’s office away from rioters ransacking the Capitol on Jan. 6, Groh made the startling discovery.
The button—the whole unit—was gone.
Another lawmaker, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania, would later report that the panic button in her office was altogether non-functional during the attack.
It was not even attached, and Scanlon told reporters last January that she had to physically search for it and then plug it in.
“It was not connected at the time it should have been,” Scanlon said last January.
Right after the New Year, a spokesperson for Pressley returned a response to Daily Kos saying that a year later, the investigation into the missing buttons remains “open and unresolved.”
“The safety of the Congresswoman, her family, and our staff remain our top priority and at the direction of the Congresswoman, the Sergeant at Arms oversaw the installation of new duress buttons throughout the office following the attack. The Congresswoman continues to call for urgent and meaningful accountability for all involved in the Jan. 6 attack, including those in the previous administration and this Congress who aided, abetted, and incited. Our democracy and communities writ large remain at risk until there is true accountability,” the spokesperson said.
Scanlon did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday, nor did the U.S. Capitol Police, who are spearheading the investigation into the missing buttons.
Both Pressley and Scanlon’s offices are located inside the Longworth House office building, just a block or so away from the Capitol.
Scanlon has said previously that she witnessed “unauthorized tours” of the Capitol in the run-up to the attack, including a small group of up to eight people who, when she spotted them, were “not wearing masks properly” according to a statement she gave the Philly Voice in January.
The group stuck out because the COVID-19 pandemic had put the kibosh on tours of the building, leaving it mostly open only to staff, lawmakers, and the press corps for several months at that point.
A fellow Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, also said in a video posted to Facebook last January that she witnessed members leading tours of the building on Jan. 5.
Sherrill, along with more than two dozen other lawmakers, asked the House and Senate Sergeant at Arms, as well as the U.S. Capitol Police, to investigate. Notably, most of the members who signed off on the letter stressed that they were calling for the investigation because their instincts were tipped off. Most of the lawmakers who signed have served in the military and as they noted, were trained to spot “suspicious activity.”
This investigation does not appear to be closed, either. Calls and emails to the House and Senate Sergeant at Arms were not immediately returned Thursday.
These questions alone are just a few of the many that remain exactly a year after the attack. The person who laid pipe bombs at the Republican and Democratic National headquarters respectively is still at large and there is a $100,000 reward for that person’s capture. And though over 700 defendants have been charged, the FBI is still looking for more than 350 suspects who they say participated in the Capitol attack. At least 100 of those individuals allegedly assaulted police officers and there are at least two people who are wanted for physically assaulting reporters.
The Jan. 6 Committee is expected to commence public hearings in the weeks ahead and for now, there is still a showdown at the Supreme Court between the committee and former President Donald Trump. Trump is trying to shield a trove of presidential records that investigators say are directly tied to the insurrection, including information about who he spoke to when lawmakers, police, Capitol staff, reporters, and others were under siege.
Tell us in the comments: What do you make of the missing buttons? If you could ask investigators a single question about this matter alone, what would it be?