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Capitol riots: Commander of DC National Guard says Pentagon took 3 hours to approve deployment

Gen. William J. Walker
Posted at 9:14 AM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 13:59:08-05

The commanding general of the D.C. National Guard testified Wednesday that the Pentagon took more than three hours to approve the deployment of troops to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, even as live news footage showed Trump supporters breaching the hallways of the building and disrupting the certification of the 2020 election.

In his opening statement Tuesday, Gen. William Walker of the D.C. National Guard said he received a “frantic” call from then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund requesting help fending off Trump supporters at 1:49 p.m. ET on Jan. 6. Walker said he immediately relayed the request to the Pentagon for approval.

However, Walker says the Department of Defense did not approve the request until after 5:08 p.m. ET — three hours and 19 minutes after his initial request.

Walker also testified Tuesday that Guardsmen had already been loaded into buses and were ready to be deployed to the Capitol while they waited on approval from the Pentagon.

Walker ultimately placed blame for the delay with then-acting Defense Sec. Christopher Miller.

Walker also testified that he had been given an “unusual” restriction on Jan. 5 regarding the deployment of Quick Reaction Force members unless he was granted “explicit approval” by then-Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy.

"I found that requirement to be unusual, as was the requirement to seek approval to move guardsmen supporting the Metropolitan Police Department to move from one traffic control point to another," Walker said, according to NPR.

However, other top executive branch officials pushed back against Walker’s testimony during Wednesday’s hearing. Robert Salesses, a Department of Defense aide, testified that “full activation” of the D.C. National Guard was granted at 3:04 p.m. — more than two hours before Walker claimed they were.

The testimony came Thursday during a joint hearing of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

Last week, the joint committees questioned top law enforcement officials tasked with protecting the Capitol. At that hearing, the former chief of the Capitol police and the acting chief of the D.C. Metro Police deflected blame for the riots, claiming they did not receive proper intelligence regarding the coordination of the Trump supporters who planned to storm the Capitol.

On Tuesday, FBI Director Chris Wray testified that his agency did promptly warn law enforcement about social media threats that warned of an attack against the Capitol. While he said one of those reports was not sent until 7 p.m. on Jan. 5, Wray said his agency relayed the information to local law enforcement partners within 40 minutes of receiving that information.

Wray also testified during Tuesday’s briefing that the FBI considered the Jan. 6 attack to be “domestic terrorism,” and added that there is no evidence that antifa or other left-wing groups posed as Trump supporters while storming the Capitol.