National Guard chief's disturbing testimony blames top Pentagon officials for crucial delay on Jan. 6
DC National Guard Commander William J. Walker says the Secretary of the Army withheld authority for him to deploy a Quick Reaction Force on January 6th and that after he called in for authorization on the day of the insurrection, it took 3 hours and 19 minutes to get approval. pic.twitter.com/3ViQ8iCZ56— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) March 3, 2021
Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commander of the National Guard in Washington, D.C., delivered disturbing new testimony on Wednesday about the delay in deployment of his forces during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
He was prepared to send a large number of troops to the Capitol immediately at 1:49 p.m. when he received a "frantic" call for backup from then-Chief of the Capitol Police Steven Sund. Sund was desperate for support as his officers' perimeter had been breached by the mob of Trump supporters, gravely endangering members of Congress counting the votes of the Electoral College. Walker said Sund's voice was "cracking with emotion" and pleaded that there was a "dire emergency at the Capitol."
"He requested the immediate assistance of as many available National Guardsmen that I could muster," Walker said.
It wasn't until three hours and 19 minutes later that Walker would get permission from the Pentagon to deploy the troops, he said. Because D.C. is not a state, the district's National Guard is under the control of the president, who has delegated his command to the Department of Defense. Christopher Milley was serving as the acting secretary of the department after President Trump had removed Secretary Mark Esper following the 2020 election.
In the time between Sund's call to Walker and the arrival of the National Guard, rioter Ashli Babbitt was killed by an officer for breaching a barrier within the building separating the mob from the lawmakers. Officer Brian Sicknick of the Capitol Police was also killed in the clash with protesters, though the exact cause of his death remains unknown.
As the Capitol was breached, the news media watch on with horror as the Capitol Police were overwhelmed, and people quickly began calling for the National Guard to intervene. But scattered reports indicated that there was an unexplained delay in their deployment, raising the disturbing prospect that political influence was responsible for denying Congress necessary protection.
Walker's testimony indicates that this was, indeed, the case.
"It required me to seek authorization from the secretary of the Army and the secretary of Defense to essentially protect my guardsmen," he said. In an "unusual memo," he said, "the secretary of defense, told me I needed his permission to escalate to have that kind of protection." During the previous summer's racial justice protests, Walker said, he had been able to get immediate approval to activate his forces.
And on a call with his supervisors after hearing Sund's pleas, the request was stalled: "The Army senior leaders did not think it would look good."
Other Pentagon officials have defended the response, saying the National Guard was activated as quickly as possible. Disputes about the exact timeline remain to be resolved.
"This is the D.C. National Guard that went from a cold start, and they had troops there in two and a half, three hours," Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Monday. "They reacted faster than our most elite forces from a cold start."
But Walker contended that he was unnecessarily delayed and could have gotten about 150 troops out almost immediately.
"I would have had them assemble in the armory, and then get on buses and go straight to the armory and report to the most ranking Capitol Police officer they saw and take direction, and further," he said. "We could have helped extend the perimeter and push back the crowd."
It wasn't until 5:09 p.m., Walker said, that he was given permission to act. In less than 20 minutes, the National Guard arrived at the Capitol, where more than 100 officers had reportedly been injured.
Walker said that Army Gen. Charles Flynn, the brother of disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who advised Trump in his plots to overturn the 2020 election, was on the call and had pushed back against approving the request for the National Guard. The Army had initially denied that Flynn was on the call.
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