The Army was initially reluctant to grant the D.C. city government’s request to deploy the National Guard in anticipation of the pro-Trump rally that took place hours before the deadly Capitol insurrection, according to a previously undisclosed internal draft memo obtained by the Washington Post.
In its internal memo, the Army argued against city officials’ request by saying that the U.S. military wasn’t needed to assist police with traffic and crowd management for the rally unless more than 100,000 attendees were expected. The National Park Service expected 30,000 people to attend the Trump rally on Jan. 6. The organizers’ permit was for a crowd of 10,000.
The memo also expressed opposition to the D.C. government’s request by pointing out the lack of a federal agency being designated to coordinate preparations and on-the-day operations, arguing that resources of other federal agencies hadn’t been depleted and that law enforcement was “far better suited” for crowd control, according to the Post.
The Army leadership had stated its opposition to green-lighting D.C.’s request during deliberations at the Pentagon the weekend before the deadly Capitol insurrection that then-President Trump’s incited when he told attendees at the rally hours before the attack to “fight like hell” to overturn Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
Ultimately, the Army caved and deployed the National Guard following pressure from acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, amid the situation spiraling out of control. The Army additionally realized that District officials wouldn’t look to the Justice Department for assistance like they would’ve preferred.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy wrote in a revised final memo to Miller that he supported the request on the condition that a lead agency was identified and all other federal agencies “exhausted their assets to support these events,” the Post reported. Miller ultimately approved the request.
Col. Cathy Wilkinson, a spokeswoman for the Army, told the Post in a statement that the Pentagon provided 340 members of the D.C. Guard and that Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request was “approved and supported.” Wilkinson said that the draft memo was not signed or approved, and that it is not unusual the Army staff to “provide options” for senior leaders to inform their decision making process.
The Army’s internal memo signaling resistance to deploying the military to support law enforcement in D.C. was issued months after Milley and then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper faced mounting backlash for participating in Trump’s church photo-op — which occurred amid federal law enforcement forcefully clearing out Black Lives Matter protesters near the White House by using pepper balls and flying helicopters at low altitude over protesters. The Justice Department also placed uniformed agents with no insignia from the Bureau of Prisons on the streets.
Trump’s ousting of Esper days after the November presidential election added to growing concern that then-President would use the military in an attempt to delegitimize the election process amid his refusal to concede to Biden.
Milley at the time maintained that members of the U.S. military “do not take an oath to a king or queen, tyrant or dictator,” but rather to the Constitution during a speech days after the election.
In an interview with VICE that aired last week, Miller said it’s “pretty definitive” that the deadly Capitol insurrection earlier this year wouldn’t have happened if Trump didn’t deliver a fiery speech hours before the attack urging his supporters to overturn Biden’s electoral victory.
“Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and tried to overrun the Capitol, without the president’s speech?” Miller told VICE. “I think it’s pretty much definitive that wouldn’t have happened.”