Yesterday President Joe Biden fired Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton after an investigation found that he abused his position and shirked his duties during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in 2021. Prior to the president’s action, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers called for Blanton to resign.
The firing was the result of prior issues with the architect’s conduct. AN covered allegations surrounding Blanton’s misdeeds when they first surfaced in 2019 and again last year, when an inspector general within the Architect of the Capitol office issued a bombshell report that accused Blanton of “committing a slew of ethical violations, including offering unauthorized tours of the United States Capitol complex to ‘patriots’ in the days leading up to the November 2020 election and commandeering government SUVs for vacations.” In addition to these escapades, Blanton “[misled] investigators, and impersonated a police officer on multiple occasions,” according to The New York Times.
The report found that Blanton and his family had used a work vehicle for family errands as well as excursions to Florida and South Carolina, a move that incurred about $14,000 in tax benefits that Blanton failed to declare, The New York Times reported. In another egregious incident, Blanton pretended to be an off-duty police officer during an encounter when he followed a driver in a hit-and-run outside his home, The Hill said.
In a February 10 hearing into his conduct, Blanton stated that he decided to stay home from work on January 6 because of the crowds and the protests. “I wholeheartedly reject any assertion that I have engaged in unethical behavior during my service to this country,” he testified.
The White House’s termination letter to Blanton was short and to the point: “At the direction of President Biden, I am writing to inform you that your appointment as Architect of the Capitol is terminated effective 5:00 p.m. [February 13].” It was signed by Gautam Raghavan, assistant to the president for presidential personnel.
Founded in 1793, the Architect of the Capitol is a federal agency that develops, operates, and maintains facilities within the United States Capitol Complex. Prior architects include Benjamin Henry Latrobe and Charles Bulfinch. The office has only supported 12 leaders in its 230-year history; since 1989, these individuals are appointed by the president with input from Congress for a renewable ten-year term. Former President Donald Trump nominated Blanton for his role in 2019; with this change, he only made it three years into his tenure. Biden’s pick for the 13rd Architect of the Capitol has not yet been announced.