Pentagon prevented immediate response to mob, says Guard chief
The D.C. National Guard chief on Wednesday told lawmakers he would have “immediately” activated his forces to assist U.S. Capitol Police on Jan. 6 if his authority had not been restricted by the Pentagon.
“I would have sent them there immediately as soon as I hung up,” Commanding Gen. William Walker told lawmakers on the Senate Rules Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at a hearing evaluating the security breakdown that occurred when a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol.
“My next call would have been to my subordinate commanders, to get every single guardsman in this building and everybody that’s helping the Metropolitan Police…to the Capitol, without delay.”
Walker on Wednesday told lawmakers about a Jan. 5 letter from acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller that restricted his ability to deploy the Quick Reaction Force and seek approval from higher ups before moving his National Guard forces.
Walker called the letter unusual.
“I had restrictions on me I hadn’t had in the past,” he said.
Walker said he could have gotten 150 troops to the Capitol in 20 minutes if he was not delayed by higher ranking officials at the Pentagon.
Walker’s written testimony outlines the three-hour delay in getting approval to send the National Guard to the Capitol.
Though the Pentagon approved the request for National Guard assistance at 4:32 – hours after violence broke out at the Capitol – that information was not relayed to Walker for another half an hour.
“How is that possible,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) asked. “The person that had to be told wasn’t for more than a half an hour after the decision was made?… It’s a significant problem for the future.”
The delay in getting approval also renewed questions over the multi-step process to engage the National Guard within the District.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said he was puzzled by the delay in getting approval to bring in additional forces, saying the multi-step process “deeply inhibited the ability of the National Guard to move quickly.”
Walker also testified that former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned in the wake of the attack, felt that he was unable to ask for National Guard assistance ahead of the attack.
Walker said the two are friends, and spoke the weekend before Jan 6.
“I asked him, ‘Are you going to request DC National Guard help? And if you do I need it in writing. It has to be formal because the Secretary of Defense has to approve it.’ He told me he was not allowed to request a support, and I asked him if he wanted me to share that and he said, ‘No, I can’t even ask you for the score.’ That’s what he told me,” Walker said.
Sund previously told lawmakers he sought to request National Guard assistance on Jan. 4, but was rebuffed by former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving.
Irving has disputed that, saying he took Sund’s request as an “offer” from the National Guard to send more troops, something he did not think was needed given the intelligence they had at the time.
But Rules Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) aired frustration with Irving and his Senate counterpart for slowing the request for assistance within the Capitol.
“The decision to reinforce local police with the National Guard was not made ahead of time,” she said, referring to their testimony in the first hearing the committees held on the attack.
“Now that decision was made – or maybe I should say, rather, not made – by the former House and Senate Sergeant arms.”
-Updated 1:56 p.m.