May 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Former Pentagon chief blames media "hysteria" for lack of troops on Jan. 6

Former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller told the House Oversight Committee Wednesday that he limited the deployment of National Guard troops at the Capitol ahead of Jan. 6 in part due to media "hysteria" about "the possibility of a military coup."

Why it matters: William Walker, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, previously testified that a three-hour delay in approval for National Guard assistance during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack was exacerbated by "unusual" restrictions on his authorities by Pentagon leadership.

Context: Walker said that had he not been prohibited by Army leadership from using the National Guard's "Quick Reaction Force" without authorization, he would have "immediately" sent troops to the Capitol after receiving a "frantic call" from then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund.

What they're saying: "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 advisers to the president were advocating the declaration of martial law," Miller testified Wednesday.

  • "I was also cognizant of the fears promulgated by many about the prior use of the military in the June 2020 response to protests near the White House and fears that the president would invoke the Insurrection Act to politicize the military in an anti-democratic manner."
  • "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."
  • Miller testified that he stands by "every decision" that he made that day, stressing in written remarks that U.S. troops should be deployed for domestic law enforcement "only when all civilian assets are expended and ONLY as the absolute last resort."

The big picture: Miller, who was appointed to lead the Pentagon after Mark Esper was fired following the 2020 election, previously blamed former President Trump for encouraging the mob that attacked the Capitol with his speech preceding the deadly riot.

  • Miller said in his opening statement that he stands by those comments, but added that he is "not in a position to make an official assessment of [Trump's] responsibility."
  • Miller also said he did not speak to Trump at all during the Jan. 6 attack, telling lawmakers: "I had all the authority I needed from the president to fulfill my constitutional duties." He acknowledged that he did speak to Vice President Pence, but said that Pence is not in the chain of command and did not order him to "clear the Capitol."

Read Miller's opening statement.

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