Questions on Capitol riot response sparked anew after probe releases testimony from Defense official
The narrative that former President Donald Trump continues to shill about his efforts to stop the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021—or even so much as prepare to protect against the possibility of it—is being blown apart by sworn testimony from former members of the U.S. Defense Department.
In a new video released from the January 6 committee on Tuesday, former acting Defense Department Secretary Christopher Miller testified to members of the panel that Trump “never” gave a direct order to have 10,000 troops from the National Guard “on the ready” on Jan. 6.
“There was no direct, there was no order from the President,” Miller said.
Miller added that he was “never given any direction or order” nor did he know of any plans of that nature, he said.
To remove any doubt: Not only did Donald Trump fail to contact his Secretary of Defense on January 6th (as shown in our hearing), Trump also failed to give any order prior to January 6 to deploy the military to protect the Capitol. Here is Secretary Miller’s testimony— pic.twitter.com/joucnUHvBB— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) July 26, 2022
Miller’s testimony is critical to supporting the Jan. 6 committee’s findings that Trump failed to act on Jan. 6, but there are a few important questions that are also raised as a result.
Miller appeared on Fox News last month alongside his former chief of staff, Kashyap “Kash” Patel, a fervent ally of the former president. In an interview with host Sean Hannity, Hannity repeated that Trump had “approved” and “signed off on” sending up to 20,000 Guard to Washington, D.C.
Patel eagerly declared that Trump “unequivocally authorized” the Guard to be mobilized should the situation call for it. Miller agreed. When Hannity asked them both, again, if they testified under oath that Trump ordered the troops, Miller affirmed it again.
“Absolutely, Sean,” Miller said.
What Miller tells Sean Hannity and what Miller tells the select committee might vary greatly, but there is another distinction worth mentioning: When Miller appears on Hannity’s show, he’s not appearing under threat of perjury.
His sworn statement, however, joined one already given to the committee by the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley. Milley testified that, on the day of the insurrection, he spoke to members of then-Vice President Mike Pence’s staff up to two or three times—but he never heard from Trump.
Trump’s idleness on Jan. 6 left Milley awash in shock when he spoke to the committee.
“You know, you’re the commander in chief. You got an assault going on on the Capitol of the United States of America and its—nothing? No call. Nothing. Zero,” Milley remarked.
In his private deposition, Pence’s national security adviser Keith Kellogg also testified that he never heard from Trump on Jan. 6, and heard no order for troops to be issued.
Trump has claimed multiple times that he ordered troops sent to D.C. ahead of Jan. 6, but the record of his remarks debunks that.
First, Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, appeared on Fox News in February 2021, falsely proclaiming that Trump issued a “direct order” to have troops “on the ready.”
Per the interview transcript, Meadows said:
“As many as 10,000 National Guard troops were told to be on the ready by the secretary of defense. That was a direct order from President Trump. And yet here's what we see is, there's all kinds of blame going around, but yet not a whole lot of accountability. That accountability needs to rest with where it ultimately should be.”
In a Fox interview of his own around the same time, Trump doubled down, saying he “definitely gave the number of 10,000 National Guardsmen and I [said] I think you should have 10,000 National Guard ready.”
But a thorough fact-check from The Washington Post shows that the “order” Trump recollected giving, was actually his spin on his own “offhand remark” made during a meeting on the eve of the Capitol assault with Secretary Miller and Miller’s aides.
The meeting was about Iran, but the press attending the session from Vanity Fair recorded how Trump turned from Iran to talk of the crowd size he expected at the rally on Jan. 6. Miller told the committee under oath that Trump abruptly asked how many troops the Defense Department would send out.
Miller said he told Trump that the Pentagon could send any number “the District requests.” Then Miller remembered Trump saying: ‘You’re going to need 10,000 people,’” before adding that he wasn’t “bullshitting” him.
“He said that,” Miller told the select committee.
But then, the former Defense secretary followed that up by saying he clarified to Trump specifically that if the White House wanted troops hauled in, “someone’s going to have to ask for it” expressly.
A spokesperson for the Pentagon confirmed to The Washington Post that no such order was given at that meeting. A spokesperson for the Pentagon told Daily Kos late Wednesday it had no further comment at this time.
There’s also little to no question that Trump understood what such an order would look like practically: After all, he deployed both the National Guard and the D.C. National Guard when demonstrators showed up to protest the police killing of George Floyd the previous summer.
This June, just ahead of the Jan. 6 committee’s public hearing on June 9, Trump lied about the Guard deployment again. This time he inflated the figures. The twice-impeached ex-president claimed he “suggested and offered to send up to 20,000 National Guard or troops before the rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6,” instead of the 10,000 he suggested they would need but never expressly ordered.
The crowd, he expected, “was going to be very large.”
Beyond disparities in Miller’s public-facing position to Fox and the one he offered to the select committee, there are other questions that still linger about why there was a delay in mobilizing Guard to the Capitol on Jan. 6.
When then-U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund called for help on Jan. 6, it took over four hours for the D.C. National Guard to arrive. In a report by the Defense Department Inspector General issued in November 2021, Miller was described as being averse to having National Guard or other military stationed at the Capitol.
It was a bad look.
Miller told the inspector general the idea of military personnel stationed around the Capitol was even less appealing when he weighed the wide swath of media reports circulating at the time alleging Trump wanted to declare martial law to stop Congress from certifying the count.
He cited a Jan. 3, 2021, open letter from former secretaries at the department who warned against a visible military presence at the Capitol.
“I knew if the morning of the 6th or prior if we put U.S. military personnel on the Capitol, I would have created the greatest Constitutional crisis probably since the Civil War,” Miller told watchdogs at the department last November.
This opinion was shared by officials at the department, like former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, and those at local law enforcement agencies, like the Metropolitan Police Department, according to the report.
McCarthy said he was “getting a lot of chatter” in the press about what the military was going to do that day, and he didn’t want to “create the perception that the military was involved in the electoral process,” the report noted.
As for Miller, in a memo issued on Jan. 4, he authorized the Army to utilize a quick reaction force team made up of Guard troops in an emergency or as a “last resort.” Otherwise, they wanted to keep the optics clean. Without Miller’s direct authorization, the memo clarified that the D.C. National Guard was not permitted to employ any riot control agents, use intelligence and surveillance equipment, employ helicopters or other air patrols, conduct searches, seizures, or arrests, or use weapons, ammunition, bayonets, batons, helmets or body armor.
The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General (DoD OIG) report said Lieutenant General Walter Piatt, director of the U.S. Army staff, and General Charles Flynn, brother to disgraced national security adviser Michael Flynn Charles Flynn, were also opposed to a military presence at the Capitol when calls for backup were flowing in on Jan. 6.
Piatt told members of a House Oversight committee in June 2021 that it took the Guard hours to be deployed because they were not prepared to respond to the violence. Piatt told lawmakers that when he was on the phone with Capitol Police officials and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, he was adamant that he did not deny any requests for the Guard to be brought in to help.
Flynn—who was promoted to commander of the U.S. Army Pacific on Jan. 4, 2021, and still serves in the role—told members of the same committee last June that Piatt was calm during the call with frantic officials. Flynn was not on that call, he said, but overheard Piatt’s reaction.
“When people’s lives are on the line, two minutes is too long,” Piatt said at the time. “But we were not positioned for that urgent request. We had to re-prepare so we could send them in prepared for this new mission.”
A former member of the D.C. National Guard who sat on the National Security Council, Colonel Earl Matthews, tore Piatt and Flynn apart this past December. He accused Piatt and Flynn of being “absolute and unmitigated liars” in an extensive memo that was shared with the Jan. 6 committee.
Matthews accused Flynn and Piatt of lying to congress about their response and said the Army’s take on its response to Jan. 6 was “revisionist” history harkening back to Stalinist propaganda. The OIG has stood behind its reporting and has said that officials at the department were not involved in any wrongdoing.