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Former Pentagon chief to say he feared Kent State repeat on Jan. 6

Former Pentagon chief to say he feared Kent State repeat on Jan. 6
© Bonnie Cash

Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller will defend his decisionmaking ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in congressional testimony Wednesday, arguing he was trying to avoid fears of a military coup or a repeat of the 1970 Kent State shootings, according to a copy of the testimony obtained by The Hill.

Miller’s appearance Wednesday before the House Oversight and Reform Committee will mark the highest-ranking testimony from someone who served in the Pentagon when supporters of then-President TrumpDonald Trump Pence said he's 'proud' Congress certified Biden's win on Jan. 6 Americans put the most trust in their doctor for COVID-19 information: poll OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Biden administration to evacuate Afghans who helped US l Serious differences remain between US and Iran on nuclear talks l US, Turkish officials meet to discuss security plans for Afghan airport MORE attacked the Capitol in hopes of overturning President BidenJoe Biden Pence said he's 'proud' Congress certified Biden's win on Jan. 6 Americans put the most trust in their doctor for COVID-19 information: poll US to give Afghanistan 3M doses of J&J vaccine MORE’s victory in the November election.

Testifying alongside Miller on Wednesday will be former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee.

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In his testimony, Rosen will similarly defend preparations ahead of the attack, according to a copy obtained by The Hill.

“I believe that DOJ [Department of Justice] reasonably prepared for contingencies ahead of January 6, understanding that there was considerable uncertainty as to how many people would arrive, who those people would be, and precisely what purposes they would pursue. Unlike the police, DOJ had no frontline role with respect to crowd control,” Rosen wrote. “But DOJ took appropriate precautions to have tactical support available if contingencies led to them being called upon.”

The Pentagon has come under scrutiny for an hours-long delay in deploying the National Guard as the rioters overwhelmed law enforcement officers and breached the Capitol as well as what the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard has described as "unusual" constraints placed on him prior to Jan. 6 that hampered his ability to respond immediately that day.

As he decided what approvals to grant the National Guard leading up to lawmakers’ Electoral College certification, Miller plans to testify, he was cognizant of both the backlash following the use of the National Guard to respond to racial justice protests in June and fears of Trump using the military to overturn the election results.

“My concerns regarding the appropriate and limited use of the military in domestic matters were heightened by commentary in the media about the possibility of a military coup or that advisors to the President were advocating the declaration of martial law,” Miller wrote in his testimony.

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“No such thing was going to occur on my watch but these concerns, and hysteria about them, nonetheless factored into my decisions regarding the appropriate and limited use of our Armed Forces to support civilian law enforcement during the Electoral College certification,” he wrote. “My obligation to the Nation was to prevent a constitutional crisis.”

He will also cite what he described as the military’s “extremely poor record in supporting domestic law enforcement.”

“I fervently believe the military should not be utilized in such scenarios other than as a last resort and only when all other assets have been expended,” Miller plans to say. “In the 1960s and 1970s the military was tasked to support domestic officials during civil disturbances involving civil rights and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. And some 51 years ago, on May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guard troops fired at demonstrators at Kent State University and killed four American civilians.”

Miller will also blame the “many commentators” who he said have “mischaracterized” the limits placed on the Guard ahead of time, arguing he authorized the exact support that D.C. Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserPedestrian bridge collapses in Northeast DC, injuring 6 Senate dives into DC statehood debate in second hearing GOP senator on DC statehood: 'No one is compelled to actually' live there MORE (D) and Maj. Gen. William Walker, then the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, requested.

Miller, who has previously attributed some of the blame for the riot to Trump, will say the former president has no involvement in the Defense Department’s response on Jan. 6 and will reiterate his claim that Trump suggested on Jan. 5 that 10,000 troops would be needed the following day.

And he will argue criticism of the slow response on Jan. 6 is not rooted in reality.

“I do not believe these critics understand the complexities involved in redeploying forces in an urban environment and, again, the subordinate role the military must play in the rare instances it is necessary to use such forces to support domestic law enforcement agencies,” he wrote. “This isn’t a video game where you can move forces with a flick of the thumb or a movie that glosses over the logistical challenges and the time required to coordinate and synchronize with the multitude of other entities involved, or with complying with the important legal requirements involved in the use of such forces.”

– Updated at 4:39 p.m.