Last updated on January 28, 2021
More evidence is emerging that the Trump administration planned the insurrection. The DC National Guard is unique in that it is directly under the authority of the president, rather than a governor. The Pentagon normally allows the guard commander to take military action on his own in an emergency in order to protect lives and property. But sometime prior to the riot, the Pentagon required the guard commander to get approval from the Defense Secretary or the Secretary of the Army before taking any action.
Local commanders typically have the power to take military action on their own to save lives or prevent significant property damage in an urgent situation when there isn’t enough time to obtain approval from headquarters.But Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, said the Pentagon essentially took that power and other authorities away from him ahead of a pro-Trump protest on Jan. 6. That meant he couldn’t immediately roll out troops when he received a panicked phone call from the Capitol Police chief warning that rioters were about to enter the U.S. Capitol.“All military commanders normally have immediate response authority to protect property, life, and in my case, federal functions — federal property and life,” Walker said in an interview. “But in this instance I did not have that authority.”
It is not immediately clear from the story when this authority was taken away. Some of that action appears to be in response to the guard’s heavy-handed actions against the BLM protestors in June, which included flying a helicopter low over the protestors.
“After June, the authorities were pulled back up to the secretary of defense’s office,” [former Army secretary] McCarthy said in comments to The Post. “Any time we would employ troops and guardsmen in the city, you had to go through a rigorous process. As you recall, there were events in the summer that got a lot of attention, and that was part of this.”
The restrictions contributed to the delay in sending in the national guard.
“I told [Capitol police chief Sund] I had to get permission from the secretary of the Army and I would send him all available guardsmen but as soon as I got permission to do so,” Walker said. “I sent a message to the leadership of the Army, letting them know the request that I had received from Chief Sund.”Permission from the Pentagon wouldn’t come for another hour and fifteen minutes, according to a Defense Department timeline of events, as members of Congress barricaded themselves in their offices and hid from a marauding horde trying to undo the Nov. 3 election.
There is evidence that the Pentagon added more restrictions at the last minute (this is buried deep into the story):
Memos obtained by The Post show how tightly the Pentagon restricted [Guard commander] Walker ahead of the events.In a Jan. 5 memo, the Army secretary, who is Walker’s direct superior in the chain of command, prohibited him from deploying the quick reaction force composed of 40 guardsmen 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.McCarthy, the Army secretary, was also restricted by his superior, the acting defense secretary. In a Jan. 4 memo, McCarthy was prohibited from deploying D.C. Guard members with weapons, helmets, body armor or riot control agents without defense secretary approval. McCarthy retained the power to deploy the quick reaction force “only as a last resort.”
Then-acting Defense Secretary Miller denied that the Pentagon had deliberately slowed down its response, of course.
If nothing else, one thing is clear: After the election, when Trump cleared out the top civilians at the Pentagon and replaced them with incompetent toadies, he was expecting that either their incompetence or their toadying (or both) would be useful to him in any violent attempt to steal the election. Congress is now holding hearings which may help answer the question of which it was.
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