Ex-Pentagon chief, House Democrat clash during Capitol attack hearing: ‘You’re ridiculous’
Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller clashed with Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) on Wednesday over former President Trump’s culpability in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack after the ex-Pentagon chief appeared to walk back previous comments blaming Trump.
At a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, Lynch asked Miller whether the attack would have happened without Trump’s speech at a rally that preceded the breach, noting comments Miller made to Vice in March blaming Trump.
“I think I’d like to modify my original assessment,” Miller said.
“Why am I not surprised,” Lynch interjected, laughing.
Arguing that “we are getting more information by the day, by the minute, about what happened,” Miller said it now “seems clear that there was some sort of conspiracy where there were organized assault elements that intended to assault the Capitol that day.”
Later in the exchange, when Lynch accused Miller of reversing his stance, Miller replied, “that’s ridiculous.”
“You’re ridiculous,” Lynch shot back.
“Thank you for your thoughts,” Miller responded.
Miller was offering his first congressional testimony defending the Pentagon’s response on Jan. 6 amid lingering questions about delays in deploying the National Guard as pro-Trump rioters breached the building while lawmakers were certifying President Biden’s victory in the November election.
During the interview with Vice in March, Miller said he did not believe anyone would have marched on the Capitol without Trump’s speech beforehand, in which he encouraged supporters to “fight like hell” and head to the Capitol.
“Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and tried to overrun the Capitol, without the president’s speech? I think it’s pretty much definitive that wouldn’t have happened,” Miller said in the interview.
In written testimony for Wednesday’s hearing, Miller similarly said, “I stand by my prior observation that I personally believe his comments encouraged the protestors that day,” though he added that “I am not in a position to make an official assessment of his responsibility.”
Miller did not include those comments in his oral opening statement Wednesday, but under Lynch’s questioning, said Trump “clearly offered that they should march on the Capitol, so it goes without saying that his statement resulted in that.”
Citing the comments to Vice and the written testimony, Lynch characterized Miller’s answers to him Wednesday as “not believable.”
“You understand how not believable your new testimony, your new version of testimony that was apparently created between the time you wrote your testimony this morning and when you came before the committee today,” Lynch said.
Miller then argued “there’s a difference between marching on the Capitol and assaulting the Capitol.”
“That’s the delineation I’m trying to make, despite the partisan attack that I just was subjected to,” Miller said.