The commanding general of the D.C.National Guard told lawmakers on Wednesday that restrictions placed on him by the Pentagon ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection, along with slow decision making by his chain of command, kept him from sending help more quickly.
Three hours and 19 minutes, while a riot raged at the Capitol.
That’s how long the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard says elapsed between then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund’s “frantic” plea for help quelling a violent mob and the ultimate approval of military aid by the Pentagon. The discrepancy between his estimate and the Pentagon’s conflicting testimony is now at the heart of lawmakers’ investigation into the security lapses that prolonged the siege on Congress on Jan. 6.
The conflict in officials’ accounts of their response to the insurrection came into sharper view on Wednesday, when D.C. National Guard chief William Walker told senators he was blocked from reacting quickly while Pentagon officials disputed his account. As lawmakers wrestle with an investigation into what went wrong, they found their key witnesses on very different pages.
Walker, with evident exasperation, told two Senate committees that he preemptively loaded troops on buses amid the chaos of the insurrection while awaiting approval from acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller. That approval took hours to arrive, he said. In the interim, top Army leaders — including the brother of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn — pushed back, worrying that the visual of National Guard troops ringing the Capitol could “inflame” the rioters, Walker said.
From The Washington Post:
Walker also discussed the restrictions that the Defense Department placed on him in memos issued Jan. 4 and 5 — limits that were first reported by The Post.
In a Jan. 5 memo, then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Walker’s direct superior in the chain of command, prohibited him from deploying a quick-reaction force composed of 40 soldiers on his own and said any rollout of that standby group would first require a “concept of operation,” an exceptional requirement given that the force is supposed to respond to emergencies.
In the Jan. 4 memo, the Army secretary himself was prohibited from deploying D.C. Guard members with weapons, helmets, body armor or riot control agents without the defense secretary’s approval but retained the power to deploy the quick-reaction force, “only as a last resort.”
Had he not been restricted by Pentagon directives, Walker said, he could have sent about 150 soldiers to aid police at the Capitol within about 20 minutes — a force that may not have changed the outcome of the day, given the lateness of the call for backup, but that Walker said would have helped.
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