Director of Army Staff disputes Capitol Police chief account of National Guard deployment
Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, the director of the Army Staff, on Monday disputed former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund’s account of how and when the National Guard was deployed to assist with Wednesday’s Capitol riots, saying that he did not push back against calls for deployment.
The top Army official contradicted what Sund told The Washington Post occurred on a conference call between officials. Piatt said that “as soon as” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy received the request from the Capitol Police to deploy the National Guard, “he ran to the Acting Secretary of Defense’s office to request approval.”
The former Capitol Police chief had said Piatt told him that he couldn’t immediately recommend McCarthy authorize the deployment as pro-Trump rioters stormed the building.
Citing Sund and four officials on the call, the Post reported that Piatt had said he didn’t “like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background.”
“I did not make the statement or any comments similar to what was attributed to me by Chief Sund in the Washington Post article — but would note that even in his telling he makes it clear that neither I, nor anyone else from [the Department of Defense], denied the deployment of requested personnel,” Piatt said in his Monday statement.
Instead, Piatt said he stayed on the phone while McCarthy met with acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller “and made clear to the participants of the conference call that I was not the approval authority but that Secretary McCarthy was working the approval.”
Piatt said he worked with the call participants to develop a deployment plan.
“This included options of relieving law enforcement throughout the city so those assets could assist with law enforcement actions at the Capitol, or using the National Guard to set a perimeter at the Capitol to provide law enforcement a safe environment in which to conduct clearing operations,” he said. “In the end, the National Guard was deployed to set the perimeter at the Capitol.”
Piatt said authorization to activate the National Guard came “approximately forty minutes after that call initiated,” though the first National Guard personnel did not arrive on the scene until 5:40 p.m., after four of the five deaths amid the riot had already occurred.
Sund, who resigned amid lawmaker pressure the day after the riots, had told the Post that Piatt had said he would prefer to have the National Guard take posts around D.C. to allow D.C. police to respond at the Capitol.
The newspaper said four other officials, including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), supported Sund’s account of the call.
Bowser told the Post that Sund had “made it perfectly clear that they needed extraordinary help, including the National Guard. There was some concern from the Army of what it would look like to have armed military personnel on the grounds of the Capitol.”
The disagreement about the call and the authorization of the National Guard comes as lawmakers and others attempt to piece together what happened Wednesday ahead of and during the riots at the Capitol, which were intended to disrupt Congress’s affirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
During his Post interview, Sund said his attempt to involve the National Guard before Wednesday was hindered by House and Senate security officials, including House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger, who have both resigned in the aftermath.