Ex-DoD Chief To Testify That Fears Over Appearance Of Coup Delayed Jan. 6 Response

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA - NOVEMBER 13: Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller waits for the arrival of Minister of National Defence of Lithuania Raimundas Karoblis November 13, 2020 at the Pentagon in Arling... ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA - NOVEMBER 13: Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller waits for the arrival of Minister of National Defence of Lithuania Raimundas Karoblis November 13, 2020 at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Acting Secretary Miller held a bilateral meeting with Minister Karoblis during his visit to the Pentagon. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 11, 2021 4:39 p.m.

Former acting secretary of defense Chris Miller will tell Congress on Wednesday that fears of a coup, or the appearance of one, contributed to his reluctance to deploy troops to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

According to prepared remarks obtained by TPM, Miller will acknowledge that fears over a potential military coup played a role in his thinking as he considered how to respond to the mob of Trump supporters.

“My concerns regarding the appropriate and limited use of the military in domestic matters were heightened by commentary in the media about the possibility of a military coup or that advisors to the President were advocating the declaration of martial law,” the prepared remarks, which were first reported by the AP and Politico, read.

In December 2020, former general Michael Flynn had suggested that Trump could deploy the military to “re-run” the 2020 election. Three days before the Capitol insurrection itself, all ten living defense secretaries wrote an open letter demanding that the military stay apolitical while calling for a peaceful transfer of power.

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Miller will add that he was aware of fears that the military had already been politicized when it responded to peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors in Washington D.C. in June 2020. He also was aware of concerns “that the President would invoke the Insurrection Act to politicize the military in an anti-democratic manner.”

“No such thing was going to occur on my watch but these concerns, and hysteria about them, nonetheless factored into my decisions regarding the appropriate and limited use of our Armed Forces to support civilian law enforcement during the Electoral College certification,” the prepared remarks read. “My obligation to the Nation was to prevent a constitutional crisis.”

Miller’s remarks reflect the reality that the threat of Trump attempting to use the military to stage a coup to stay in power was real. They also offer a dizzying glimpse into the level of anxiety that was present in the air that day.

At one point in the remarks, Miller describes three questions that he was trying to answer as the attack in the Capitol progressed: would foreign adversaries “take advantage of the situation?” Were reports of explosive devices in the area accurate?

And, finally, “was this part of a larger operation — was the attack on the Capitol a ‘feint’ for a more significant attack elsewhere?”

“For example, we received reports of a plot to bomb the Washington Monument and reports of threats from small aircraft,” Miller wrote. “I was also concerned that the Capitol event could trigger other attacks elsewhere in the United States and I didn’t want to overcommit resources until the situation became clearer.”

After the insurrection, TPM reported that fears of overreach contributed to the lack of preparedness and slow response on Jan. 6.

Miller will cite the example of the Kent State shootings, where an Ohio National Guard unit killed four peaceful protestors in 1970, as an example to avoid.

“I was committed to avoiding repeating these scenarios,” he plans to tell the House Oversight Committee.

The military did deploy troops to the streets of Washington D.C. in June 2020 to confront peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors. The use of force saw military helicopters use downwash from their rotor blades to disperse crowds as then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper described American cities as a “battlespace.”

The former Pentagon chief will add that the Defense Department had “voiced our concern” about the Jan. 6 demonstrations in advance, with the proviso that he raised the issue in a limited way because of civil liberties concerns. He felt compelled to do so, according to the remarks, because of his “sense that these efforts and coordination were not tightly wired at that point.”

Miller will testify alongside Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general who took charge of the Justice Department after Bill Barr’s departure in December 2020.

Rosen’s remarks, Politico reported, include a litany of things that he purportedly refused to do before Biden’s inauguration.

“During my tenure, no special prosecutors were appointed, whether for election fraud or otherwise; no public statements were made questioning the election; no letters were sent to State officials seeking to overturn the election results; no DOJ court actions or filings were submitted seeking to overturn election results, and the only time DOJ did file a brief it was to seek a dismissal of Rep. [Louie] Gohmert (R-TX)’s lawsuit aiming to decertify the electoral count — and that lawsuit was dismissed, as DOJ had urged,” his remarks read.

Miller also will address whether Trump was directly involved in dampening the response.

The former acting Pentagon chief will say that Trump was not. Rather, Miller will say, Trump wanted more troops around the Capitol than Miller would have been comfortable with.

In a Jan. 5 phone call with Trump, the then-president said that “they” would need 10,000 soldiers.

“The call lasted fewer than thirty seconds and I did not respond substantively, and there was no elaboration,” the remarks read. “I took his comment to mean that a large force would be required to maintain order the following day.”

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