A potential criminal matter involving Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton has been referred by the agency’s inspector general to the Department of Justice, according to an email obtained by CQ Roll Call and sources familiar with the matter.
The scope of the referral is unclear, as is what prompted it.
In June 2021, CQ Roll Call reported that Blanton was investigated by the agency’s inspector general for allegedly misusing his official government car, a black Ford Explorer.
In April, Architect of the Capitol Inspector General Christopher P. Failla informed congressional committees with oversight of the agency about the status of the referral concerning Blanton. Failla wrote that “all interviews have been completed by DOJ investigators and AOC OIG Investigators,” referring to Department of Justice investigators and investigators from his office, respectively.
Blanton “has been made aware he is under Federal Investigation by the DOJ investigators and he has obtained legal counsel for himself and his family,” Failla wrote.
The Inspector General Act of 1978 directs inspectors general to “report expeditiously to the Attorney General whenever the Inspector General has reasonable grounds to believe there has been a violation of Federal criminal law.”
Blanton, through a spokesperson, declined comment. The agency he runs, which has a fiscal 2022 budget of $774 million, is responsible for the upkeep of the Capitol and the many other buildings and grounds on the complex.
“The case is in the hands of the AUSA [assistant U.S. attorney] who is developing charges based on testimony and evidence obtained through surveillance, video, documentation and witnesses testimony. This evidence will be presented to the Grand Jury as well as an arrangement for Witness to testify,” the inspector general’s email said of where Blanton’s matter stands.
In federal criminal cases, the U.S. attorney presents evidence to a grand jury, which decides if there is probable cause to believe the individual committed a crime and should be put on trial.
“We typically do not confirm or deny the existence of investigations and have no comment,” said William Miller, a public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
Blanton is one of three voting members on the Capitol Police Board, an entity that makes decisions about security on the Capitol complex, and the only one who withstood the fallout of the Jan. 6 insurrection and kept his job. In December 2019, Blanton was nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate. He was sworn in as the 12th architect of the Capitol on Jan. 16, 2020, by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
Blanton’s leadership has come under scrutiny regarding the handling of an enormous renovation of the Cannon House Office Building, a project that is estimated to be $182 million over budget. The inspector general flagged more than $38,000 in unallowable costs that the AOC reimbursed for the construction project.
Leaders of the congressional committees with jurisdiction over the agency did not comment. House Administration Chair Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., declined to comment through a spokesperson. Ranking Member Rodney Davis, R-Ill., through a spokesperson, also declined comment.
Representatives for appropriators who oversee funding for the Architect of the Capitol — Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., and ranking member Mike Braun, R-Ind., as well as House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and ranking member Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash. — all did not respond to requests for comment.
“At this time, I have no comment on this matter,” Failla, the AOC inspector general, said in an emailed statement.
A spokesperson for the White House did not return an email seeking comment.