President Biden fired Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton on Monday, three years into his 10-year term, after reviewing a report by the office's inspector general that accused Blanton of abuses of office, the White House said. The report, issued in October, said Blanton and his family used his government vehicle as their personal car, and accused Blanton of impersonating a police officer.
Blanton was appointed by former President Donald Trump, but there was broad bipartisan support for his dismissal. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) joined those calling for his exit on Monday.
The Architect of the Capitol manages operations and preservation of the Capitol building and grounds, Supreme Court, and Library of Congress, overseeing a federal agency with about 2,400 workers. The architect also sits on the board of the Capitol Police. Blanton's job got significantly more tenuous after a Feb. 9 House Administration Committee hearing at which he defended not coming to work at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as a "prudent" decision "because of the security situation" at the besieged Capitol.
Lawmakers said Blanton also failed to adequately address the allegations in the inspector general's report, which found "administrative, ethical, and policy violations," as well as "evidence of criminal violations." During the hearing, Blanton said he "wholeheartedly" rejected "any assertion that I have engaged in unethical behavior" in "this particular role," and said the inspector general's report was "filled with errors," though he also said he did not read the entire thing.
The Oct. 26, 2022, report said Blanton used his official car for errands and family vacations, and let his wife and adult daughter drive it when he wasn't present. The daughter "transported both her friends and boyfriend in the vehicle and referred to using the AOC's fuel as 'free gas,'" the report said. Blanton also used his work vehicle's emergency lights and siren to chase down a vehicle he believed hit his daughter's boyfriend's car, and identified himself as "law enforcement," the driver's lawyer said, though Blanton denied doing so. Blanton's credentials "specifically do not delegate law enforcement authority," the report said.
Replacing Blanton will involve "a long and arduous process that could take months or years," Politico reports. Ordinarily, the deputy architect would take over in the interim, but that position is currently vacant, so the chief of operations — Joseph DiPietro, who began the job Monday — will fill the void.