- The DC National Guard commander says that the Pentagon dragged its feet responding to the Capitol riot.
- He said he could have had roughly 150 troops at the Capitol in 20 minutes if he had gotten approval.
- He said he did not receive approval to deploy troops to the Capitol until almost 3 hours after an initial request.
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The commander of the DC National Guard said Wednesday that it took military leaders in former President Donald Trump’s Pentagon three hours from the time Capitol Police called for backup to tell him to send in troops to respond to the Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the DC National Guard, told senators at a congressional hearing Wednesday that shortly after receiving a call for support, he was ready to send roughly 150 Guard troops to the Capitol. He said they could have been there in about 20 minutes, but he needed approval from Pentagon leadership.
At 1:49 pm on Jan. 6, “I received a frantic call from then Chief of US Capitol Police Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter at the Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters,” he said.
In his testimony, Walker recalled that “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 that he immediately relayed the request for National Guard support to senior Army leadership and quickly readied available forces.
He did not get approval to deploy Guard troops from Army leadership until 5:08 pm, hours after the violent mob had breached the Capitol. He said that once he finally received approval, he was able to get troops to the Capitol in 18 minutes.
The commanding general said that he had troops “ready to go shortly after the phone call” at 1:49 pm, but while he was ready to respond, he had to wait for approval.
Asked about the potential impact of those Guard forces had they been deployed sooner, Walker said they “could have made a difference,” adding that they “could have extended the perimeter and helped push back the crowd.”
Walker, who was part of a conference call around 2:30 pm, said that there were concerns raised about the “optics” of sending Guard troops to the Capitol. He said that “the Army senior leaders did not think it would look good.” The actual decision makers were apparently not on the call.
The Pentagon’s timeline of events on Jan. 6 states that although acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller approved the full activation of the DC National Guard at 3:04 pm, the decision to authorize already available DC Guard troops to move in to support Capitol Police was not made until 4:32 pm.
That timeline shows that troops already available to respond did not depart the National Guard Armory to support Capitol Police until after 5 pm, when Walker says he was finally given approval.
A Department of Defense official who testified before Congress on Wednesday was unable to explain why it took over half an hour after that 4:32 decision for someone to notify the DC Guard commander.
The defense official, Robert G. Salesses, a senior official performing the duties of the assistant secretary for homeland defense and global security, acknowledged that the communications breakdown was an “issue.”
Acting Defense Secretary Miller, a last-minute Trump administration appointee, told Vanity Fair in January that allegations that the Pentagon dragged its feet responding to the Capitol riot were “complete horse—t.”
“I know for an absolute fact that historians are going to look…at the actions that we did on that day and go, ‘Those people had their game together,'” he said.