White House

Biden dismisses scandal-plagued Capitol manager

Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton will depart seven years before his term is up, facing allegations of misusing official resources.

Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.

The White House has removed the Capitol complex’s top manager from his post following a series of misconduct revelations that prompted calls for his axing by top lawmakers in both parties.

Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton will depart seven years before his term is up under pressure from lawmakers across the Capitol. He faced a crescendo of criticism following a heated oversight hearing last week that centered on an internal watchdog report that cataloged his broad misuse of department resources.

The White House letter to Blanton was brief and terse: “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,” read the notification from Gautam Raghavan, assistant to the president for presidential personnel.

A GOP aide familiar with the situation told POLITICO Blanton was not on the Capitol campus today. The Architect of the Capitol oversees a massive portfolio from preservation and upkeep of more than 17.4 million square feet of both historic and modern facilities and 580 acres of grounds on the Capitol campus to managing more than 2,000 employees.

There was bipartisan praise for Blanton’s firing, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chair of the Senate Rules Committee that has oversight of the Architect of the Capitol office, calling it “the right thing to do.”

GOP aides told POLITICO that top lawmakers and relevant committee heads were alerted beforehand to the White House’s move, which came shortly after Speaker Kevin McCarthy called for Blanton’s removal on Twitter. A White House official noted the decision to fire Blanton had already been made before the California Republican’s tweet.

“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 tweeted midday Monday.

Filling the Architect of the Capitol role is a long and arduous process that could take months or years. A bicameral and bipartisan congressional commission must be assembled to recommend candidates to the president, and then the president chooses from that list.

The group is made up of 14 lawmakers, including the speaker, the president pro tempore and the majority and minority leaders of both chambers. It also includes the chairs and ranking members of the House Administration and Senate Rules Committees, plus the Appropriations panels in both chambers.

In the meantime, a vacant deputy role is complicating a temporary replacement for Blanton. Without a deputy architect in place, the agency’s chief of operations would be next in line to be acting architect upon Blanton’s exit. Joseph DiPietro assumed that role on Monday, with Mark Reed ending his tenure as acting chief of operations on Friday.

Blanton was a member of the three-person Capitol Police Board, which makes crucial security decisions for the complex. His exit paves the way for lawmakers to take up an examination of how the board is structured and best operating procedures.

Blanton was the last remaining member of the Capitol Police board who was in their role on Jan. 6, 2021 when Capitol defenses broke down and insurrectionists lay siege to the building. He prompted fury from lawmakers at the hearing last week when he said he had stayed away from the Hill the day of the attack, as it had not seemed “prudent” to come in.

“We will be reviewing the structure of the Capitol Police Board going forward. I will leave that there as a nugget that we will ultimately come back to in this committee,” House Administration Chair Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) said following last week’s contentious hearing with Blanton.

Jordain Carney contributed to this report.