Michael Stenger: Everything we know about the late former Senate security chief

Upper chamber’s sergeant-at-arms resigned a day after the Capitol riot after being heavily criticised

Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 28 June 2022 09:14 EDT
<p>Michael C Stenger </p>

Michael C Stenger

Michael C Stenger, who was serving as the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms when the attempted insurrection at the US Capitol broke out on 6 January 2021, passed away on Monday aged 71.

Stenger’s death, first reported by Fox News, comes as a House select committee continues its public hearings investigating precisely what caused a violent mob of Donald Trump supporters, led on by the 45th president’s “Big Lie” alleging electoral fraud, to storm the legislative complex as part of a misguided attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory on that fateful day last winter.

Stenger was heavily criticised in the immediate aftermath of the attack after it emerged that he and his counterpart for the House of Representatives, Paul Irving, had repeatedly declined offers from the US National Guard to intervene as the MAGA loyalists smashed through barriers and charged the Capitol, leaving badly outnumbered police officers to fend for themselves and placing lawmakers and staffers in fear for their lives.

He resigned from his post a day later – as did Mr Irving and Capitol Police chief Steven Sund – with the trio blasted by then-Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

“The ultimate blame for yesterday lies with the unhinged criminals who broke down doors, trampled our nation’s flag, fought with law enforcement, and tried to disrupt our democracy, and with those who incited them,” Mr McConnell said on 7 January 2021.

“But this fact does not and will not preclude our addressing the shocking failures in the Capitol’s security posture and protocols.”

Stenger was duly succeeded first by Jennifer Hemingway in an acting capacity until 22 March 2021 and then permanently by Karen Gibson.

He had ascended to the position in April 2018 having previously served as chief to staff to then Senate sergeant-at-arms Frank Larkin, having worked his way up from assistant to deputy after first joining the office in 2011.

Before that, he had spent 35 years with the US Secret Service after serving with the US Marine Corps, where he attained the rank of captain.

Hailing from New Jersey, Stenger graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University in his homestate with a Bachelor of Arts degree as a young man.

He lived in Church Falls, Virginia, with his wife Janet, with whom he had two adult sons, according to The Daily Mail.

Addressing the Senate homeland security committee about the Capitol riot in February 2021, Stenger surmised that “professional agitators” had been involved, a contention since borne out by evidence that domestic extremists groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers had a hand in organising the assault on the heart of democracy.

“There is an opportunity to learn lessons from the events of 6 January,” he told the panel.

“Investigations should be considered as to funding and travel of what appears to be professional agitators. First Amendment rights should always be considered in conjunction with professional investigations.”

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