[guest post by Dana]
This morning, Maj. Gen. William Walker gave testimony about the lengthy delay before receiving approval to mobilize the National Guard at the Jan. 6 insurrection:
It took more than three hours for former President Donald Trump’s Defense Department to approve a request for D.C.’s National Guard to intervene in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, the commanding general of the outfit told senators on Wednesday.
The testimony comes as Congress holds a series of hearings about security preparations for and response to the violence at the Capitol earlier this year.
“At 1:49 p.m. I received a frantic call from then-Chief of U.S. Capitol Police, Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter at the Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters,” Maj. Gen. William Walker told the Senate Homeland and Rules committees in a joint hearing.
“Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency on Capitol Hill and requested the immediate assistance of as many Guardsmen as I could muster.”
Walker said he “immediately” alerted Army senior leadership of the request. He was not informed of the required approval from then-acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller until 5:08 p.m., he said — “3 hours and 19 minutes later.”
“We already had Guardsmen on buses ready to move to the Capitol. Consequently, at 5:20 p.m. (in under 20 minutes) the District of Columbia National Guard arrived at the Capitol. We helped to reestablish the security perimeter at the east side of the Capitol to facilitate the resumption of the Joint Session of Congress,” he said.
Walker also said that he would have immediately activated his forces and deployed them to assist the Capitol police if he hadn’t been restricted by the Pentagon:
Walker on Wednesday told lawmakers about a Jan. 5 letter from acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller that restricted his ability to deploy the Quick Reaction Force and seek approval from higher ups before moving his National Guard forces.
Walker called the letter unusual.
“I had restrictions on me I hadn’t had in the past,” he said.
So what I’m taking from this is that, up until the day before the insurrection, Walker had full authority to move in troops where needed. But for some mysterious reason, that authority was restricted on Jan. 5. Who was responsible for adjusting the guidance one day before the melee at the U.S. Capitol? And why?
Anyway, to further illustrate what a difference a violent riot makes, compare and contrast:
Brutal opening line of questioning from @SenGaryPeters with the head of DC Nat’l Guard.
Were you able to get immediate approval from Sec of Army to deploy in June when there was violence? “I was, yes sir.”
Were you able to get that same immediate approval in Jan? “No sir”
— Kate Bolduan (@KateBolduan) March 3, 2021
Reportedly, the optics of having Guardsmen at the Capitol played a part in the delay:
According to the former chief of Capitol Police and acting chief of DC police and Major General Walker the delay was due in part to concerns about the ‘optics’ of the National Guard, at the Capitol.”
But hey, if we’re talking about optics…
This past weekend, Trump claimed that he had been concerned about the size of the crowd that might attend the “rally,” and expressed that he wanted 10,000 National Guard troops to be at the ready:
Trump told “The Next Revolution With Steve Hilton” that his team alerted the Department of Defense days before the rally that crowds might be larger than anticipated and 10,000 national guardsmen should be ready to deploy. He said that — from what he understands — the warning was passed along to leaders at the Capitol, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — and he heard that the request was rejected because these leaders did not like the optics of 10,000 troops at the Capitol.
“So, you know, that was a big mistake,” he said.
The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave Trump’s claims four Pinocchios. You can read the breakdown here.
As a reminder, back in November, the Trump administration made sweeping changes at the Defense Department:
The flurry of changes, announced by the Department of Defense in a statement roughly 24 hours after President Donald Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, has put officials inside the Pentagon on edge and fueled a growing sense of alarm among military and civilian officials, who are concerned about what could come next.
Four senior civilian officials have been fired or have resigned since Monday, including Esper, his chief of staff and the top officials overseeing policy and intelligence. They were replaced by perceived Trump loyalists, including a controversial figure who promoted fringe conspiracy theories and called former President Barack Obama a terrorist.