KEY POINTS

  • A D.C. National Guard general said officials at the Pentagon curtailed his agency ahead of the capital riots
  • After receiving criticism for its forceful response to racial justice protests, the Department of Defence was worried about its image
  • The Capitol Police failed to request assistance ahead of time

A commander of Washington, D.C.’s national guard contingent says the Pentagon crippled his ability to respond to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. In an interview with The Washington Post, Maj. Gen. William Walker said the Department of Defense restricted his agency to intervene in emergencies ahead of the event.

When the Capitol Police chief called him to ask for help as rioters breached the Capitol building, Walker and his force of 40 soldiers could only watch from “right down the street.” The Pentagon had ordered that any actions be approved by high-level officials after criticism of its forceful response to racial justice protests.

Walker says public image problems came up on the conference call he made to request response approval.

“There was some talk about optics, but I can’t assign that to one person,” Walker said. “It’s clear that somebody talked about the optics. Who said that? I’m not sure.”

Walker’s 40-man emergency force could only be deployed after submitting a “concept of operation,” an unusual measure for a crisis response unit. Army secretary Ryan McCarthy, who ordered the restriction, was in turn ordered by acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller to keep the National Guard away from the Capitol building and use the emergency force “only as a last resort.”

Acting US defense secretary Christopher Miller, seen during a Pentagon meeting with his Lithuanian counterpart Raimundas Karoblis on November 13, 2020, has told American troops it is 'time to come home' Acting US defense secretary Christopher Miller, seen during a Pentagon meeting with his Lithuanian counterpart Raimundas Karoblis on November 13, 2020 Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / ALEX WONG

Response time was also limited by the Capitol Police, who had been told they could receive help but would need to submit an official request beforehand. That request didn’t come until rioters were minutes away from breaching the Capitol building. D.C’s National Guard arrived three and a half hours later.

“Do I wish I could have got there sooner?” Walker said. “Of course. I mean, I think everybody does. I absolutely wish I could have got there sooner. But, you know, I follow orders, and those making the decision went through a decision-making process.”

Miller remains unconvinced that the National Guard could have done better, calling the accusation “complete horse[expletive]” in an interview with Vanity Fair.

“[The Pentagon] had their game together.”