As confusion lingers about who ordered the D.C. National Guard into action on Wednesday, following a mysterious delay, one of the most troubling elements has been who was in control of the military unit as an angry pro-Trump mob descended on the Capitol.
But, there’s a clear answer.
According to a 1949 executive order signed by President Harry Truman, command of the D.C National Guard is delegated to the Secretary of Defense.
The question comes as Vice President Mike Pence was briefly reported on Wednesday to have ordered the guard’s activation, before subsequent reports clarified that Pence was “consulted” but that acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller ordered the unit’s activation.
But it doesn’t answer questions around why requests from D.C. officials and House leadership to activate the unit were initially rejected and delayed by the Department of Defense. That comes amid reporting that President Trump was initially unwilling to approve the request.
At a Thursday press conference, Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) referenced the mystery — and Miller’s authority — saying that the acting Secretary of Defense “has to answer for where the National Guard was yesterday.”
Per an order issued the same year by Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, control of the unit is further delegated to the Secretary of the Army.
This provides some semblance of clarity amid chaos over why there was an initial refusal on Wednesday in responding to a request from D.C. officials to deploy the National Guard unit.
Reports are still conflicting.
But the Washington Post said that pursuant to the delegation order, Defense Secretary Miller made the decision to deploy the D.C. National Guard.
Miller reportedly “discussed the situation with” Vice President Mike Pence, though it’s not clear what the circumstances of that were.
Brian Kalt, a constitutional law scholar at Michigan State University, told TPM that it would make sense if officials relied on the order in place
“There’s a pre-delegation order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Secretary of the Army, and that could explain what happened,” Kalt said.