Michael Stenger was the U.S. Senate sergeant-at-arms in charge of security during the Capitol riots. He has died in Virginia at age 71.
News of Stenger’s death broke on June 28, 2022, in the midst of the January 6 hearings at the U.S. Capitol. What was his cause of death? According to journalist Chad Pergram of Fox News, “Stenger had been suffering from cancer.” However, NBC News reported that an official cause of death was not released. Still, NBC reported that the death was not considered suspicious.
A woman who answered the phone at the family home in Falls Church, Virginia, told The New York Post, “The family is not here, it’s nobody’s business. It has nothing to do with January 6 at all.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forced Stenger’s resignation after January 6, according to The Hill, which quoted McConnell as decrying the “shocking failures in the Capitol’s security posture and protocols.” Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had also sought Stenger’s ouster.
Here’s what you need to know:
Stenger Was a 35-Year Veteran of the U.S. Secret Service & Was a Former Marine Captain
“It is with great sadness that we inform you that former Sergeant at Arms, Michael C. Stenger, passed away this morning,” the Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper said on June 28, 2022, according to Fox News.
He was found dead at his home, NBC News reported.
According to the Senate’s website, “The sergeant at arms serves the Senate as its chief law enforcement and protocol officer and is the administrative manager for a host of support services in the Senate. Elected by the senators, each sergeant at arms serves until a successor is chosen.”
A transcript of Stenger’s testimony before the U.S. Senate in February 2021 says that he was one of the top officials whose duties included “the protection of the Capitol on January the 6th.”
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, gave a biography for Stenger in that hearing. She said that he served as sergeant-at-arms from April 2018 through January 7, the day after the riot. She further stated:
He joined the Senate in 2011 as assistant Sergeant at Arms for the Office of Protective Services and Continuity. He has also served as chief of staff of the Sergeant at Arms and as deputy Sergeant of Arms. Prior to joining the Sergeant in Arms office, he was a 35 year veteran of the United States Secret Service, where he served in many roles including as the special agent in charge of the Washington Field Office.
Immediately before joining the Senate, he served as assistant director of the Office of Government and Public Affairs for the Secret Service. He graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He is also a veteran having attained the rank of captain in the US Marine Corps.
Stenger Called January 6 a ‘Wild, Coordinated Attack’
In his testimony to that Senate committee, Stenger said:
U.S. Capitol Police in conjunction with the sergeants-at-arms work to provide security for the Capitol complex and its population, but there is a shared responsibility with other law enforcement groups within the region. Sharing of information and resources are paramount for success. Once assuming a position as the Senate sergeant-at-arms, enhancement of the working relationship between my office and U.S. Capitol Police have been a priority. I am a proponent of the concept of intelligence-led policing. This methodology can be used in assessing threats to individual members, as well as threats to the campus. As in all intelligence operations, it is only as good as the analyst assessing it, and that assessment is then placed in the appropriate hands to take steps in order to mitigate any threats.
He conceded that a review of security on January 6 was needed , saying:
We have to be careful of returning to a time when possibility rather than probability drive security planning. With the events of January 6, certainly a real review of intelligence should be done. Returning to the concept of possibly driving security operations may result in poor use of resources. This is the constant give and take of security planning.
There is an opportunity to learn lessons from the events of January 6. Investigations should be considered, as for [inaudible 00:49:53] what appears to be professional agitators. First Amendment rights should always be considered in conjunction with these investigations. Law enforcement coordination in the National Capitol Region should be reviewed to determine what can be done in a more efficient, productive matter. Intelligence collection and dissemination, training and concepts on the use of force must be consistent. This integration should be accomplished with regard to self-interest and goals.
In conclusion, whenever you prepare for a major event, you should always consider the possibility of some level of civil disobedience at these demonstrations and plan accordingly. The events of January 6 went beyond disobedience. This was a wild, coordinated attack, where the loss of life could have been much worse. This concludes my prepared remarks.
I think a review of the Capitol Police Board and their statutory authorities probably would be a good time to do this now. There’s a lot of statutes out there in the Capitol Police Board that go back many, many years. Things have changed and it probably would make the board a little more nimble. It’s probably not a bad time and an idea to take a look at what’s there.
According to Snopes, conspiracy theories that Stenger was going to be a surprise witness at the January 6 hearings underway the week of June 27 are not true; he was not scheduled to testify. Snopes reported that social media claims that Stenger was shot and killed appear to be mixing up his death with that of another man.
McConnell Called Stenger ‘Extremely Well-Qualified’ When He Appointed Him to the Position
When McConnell first appointed Stenger to the position, he sang his praises in a press release.
“I appreciate Mike stepping up to this critical role. He is extremely well-qualified and will continue to serve the Senate and our nation well,” McConnell wrote in the 2018 statement.
It says that Michael C. Stenger was being appointed “as Senate Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper,” noting, “The Sergeant at Arms is the Senate’s chief law enforcement and protocol officer, and principal administrative manager for most support services in the United States Senate. Stenger succeeds Frank J. Larkin who has served as Sergeant at Arms since January 2015.”
The statement noted:
As Assistant Sergeant at Arms, Mr. Stenger was charged with overseeing security and continuity of operations policies and programs, and providing strategic and analytical assistance. Stenger was appointed in 2008 as Assistant Director for the USSS Office of Government and Public Affairs, where he administered USSS liaison activities with Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, other federal agencies, and members of the media and general public.