White House Ousts Top Official Over Misuse Of Govt Funds Following Congressional Outcry

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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The White House fired Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton on Monday following complaints from a bipartisan group of Congress-members and the threat of impeachment.

An Inspector General report released in October 2022 found that Blanton and his family improperly used agency vehicles, taking them to West Virginia, Florida, and South Carolina. The Blanton family’s use of agency vehicles added up to at least $12,434 “in unreported, taxable noncash fringe benefits.” Blanton also allegedly misrepresented himself as a law enforcement official.

Democratic New York Rep. Joe Morelle, ranking member of the House Administration Committee, confirmed the firing in a statement.

“After being given the opportunity to respond to numerous allegations of legal, ethical, and administrative violations, and failing to directly respond, the President has removed Mr. Brett Blanton from his position – a decision I firmly stand behind,” he said. “President Biden did the right thing and heeded my call for action. I look forward to working with my colleagues to begin a search for a new Architect immediately.”

Blanton was appointed in 2019 by President Donald Trump to a ten-year term. The Architect of the Capitol is responsible for maintaining and operating Capitol grounds, and sits on the Capitol Police Board. No Architect has ever been removed by Congress, but the Senate is considering legislation that would clarify that the position is subject to impeachment.

Blanton denied wrongdoing in a Feb. 9 hearing.

“I wholeheartedly reject any assertion that I engaged in unethical behavior during my service to this country,” he testified. “The report is filled with errors, omissions, mischaracterizations, misstatements and conclusory statements lacking evidence.”

Members of Congress rejected his testimony, with several calling for him to resign.

“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 Monday.

Blanton’s “refusal to be transparent and truthful has made clear that he can no longer lead the agency and must resign immediately,” House Administration Committee chairman Bryan Steil added.

Democrats expressed anger with Blanton’s handling of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The Architect was not on-site during the riot, but worked out of his government car. Steil suggested that Congress could reorganize the Capitol Police board in light of Blanton’s failure to be on Capitol grounds. (RELATED: Capitol Police Downplayed Intelligence From Security Firm Warning Of Capitol Riot)

“I’m outraged that you would be in a comfortable place, sir, while the rest of us were thinking about dying that day and how we were going to come out alive that day,” Democratic California Rep. Norma Torres said at the hearing.