Biden fires Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton amid bipartisan demands for termination
President Joe Biden, in a move cheered by both Democrats and Republicans, on Monday fired the Architect of the Capitol, Brett Blanton, the Epoch Times reported.
Blanton had been the subject of a recent damning investigative report from the Office of the Inspector General that exposed how the official had abused his position and violated certain policies. He had also been sharply criticized by many for electing to stay home during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot of 2021 instead of responding to the incident in person.
Architect has been "terminated"
In a one-sentence letter on Monday, Blanton was informed by Gautam Raghavan, assistant to the president for presidential personnel, that "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. today."
That same day, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tweeted, "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."
According to Politico, congressional leaders and certain committee chairs had been notified by the White House about Blanton's termination shortly after McCarthy's tweet, but an unnamed White House official said that the decision to fire the Architect of the Capitol had already been made by Biden prior to the speaker's call for him to do so.
Routine misuse of government vehicles
The loss of confidence and decision to fire Blanton undoubtedly stemmed from a 10-page report from the AoC's inspector general that accused the official of having "Abused His Authority, Misused Government Property and Wasted Taxpayer Money, Among Other Substantiated Violations."
The biggest issue was Blanton's consistent and repeated misuse of government vehicles that had been provided to him at taxpayer expense solely for his use to commute back and forth from work or for emergencies in which his presence was immediately required at the Capitol building over which he was in charge.
According to the investigation, however, Blanton routinely used the vehicles to run errands around town, go on family vacations out of state, and even allowed his wife and adult daughter to drive the vehicles without authorization.
In fact, the investigation was precipitated by a complaint about his daughter driving recklessly and speeding inside a Walmart parking garage in the official vehicle. The report also detailed a minor accident involving one of the vehicles at a brewery that was not properly handled according to official rules and regulations.
Misrepresentation of position
Blanton also stood accused by the inspector general of misrepresentation of his position, as part of an incident in which he used the official vehicle and its emergency equipment, including lights and siren, to pursue and then detain a suspect driver who had hit the vehicle driven by his daughter's boyfriend.
The now-former Architect was alleged to have misrepresented himself as an "off-duty law enforcement officer" to the suspect, local police, and both prosecuting and defense attorneys.
The report also alleged certain ethics violations by way of Blanton apparently allowing his wife to advertise and host guided tours of the Capitol building and complex for friends at a time when that complex was closed to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as appropriations violations for having his office purchase and modify a new vehicle for him at taxpayer expense.
Won't be replaced permanently anytime soon
According to Politico, replacing Blanton could prove to be a "long and arduous process" as the position of Architect of the Capitol is filled not with a presidential appointment or nomination but rather by a joint commission of congressional leaders who compile a list of approved candidates for the president to choose from.
Compounding matters is the fact that the deputy position was already vacant, which means that the next official in line, Chief of Operations Joseph Pietro, has moved up to be named as the acting architect until such time as the congressional commission puts together its list from which Biden can pick a permanent replacement.