Pentagon Told National Guard To ‘Standby’ Five Times During Insurrection, House Finds

Police hold back supporters of President Donald Trump as they gather outside the US Capitol's Rotunda on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
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June 15, 2021 9:38 a.m.

As the Jan. 6 insurrection at Congress worsened, Capitol police and D.C. officials began to scramble for help.

As pro-Trump rioters breached the building and brought Congress to a halt, they made more than 12 requests of the Pentagon for the National Guard to come, according to findings from the House Oversight Committee.

And over the hours that the attack unfolded, Pentagon officials told the national guard unit to “standby” five times, the panel found.

The House Oversight Committee is holding a hearing on Tuesday with FBI Director Chris Wray and two generals who responded to increasingly frantic requests from the Capitol and law enforcement to deploy the guard: Gen. Charles A. Flynn and Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt. The hearing will begin at 2 p.m.

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Both Piatt and Flynn, brother of disgraced general Michael, responded to requests from the Capitol for support from the military.

Questions about the national guard response on Jan. 6 boil down to a gap of time between 1:30 p.m., when rioters were overwhelming police outside the capitol and officials began to request military support, and 5:20 p.m., when the national guard unit arrived.

By that time, the insurrection had mostly been suppressed by local and regional police units.

A timeline released by the House says that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser first requested national guard support at 1:34, asking for “additional forces.”

On a 2:30 p.m. conference call, according to D.C. national guard notes the panel obtained, Lt. Gen. Piatt said that a “military presence could make the situation worse and that the optics were bad” and that sending in troops “would not be his best military advice.”

Former acting secretary of defense Chris Miller testified last month that he was hesitant to deploy the unit out of fears that the troops would be seen to be participating in a coup. Michael Flynn had recently called for the military to step in and “re-run” the election — an action that Trump supported. The weekend before the insurrection, all ten living former secretaries of defense wrote an open letter in the Washington Post demanding that the military stay uninvolved.

It did, at first, following repeated orders from Miller, Piatt, and Flynn to the National Guard to “standby.”

At 3:34 p.m., for example, the guard was told that Miller had “directed D.C. National Guard to standby on deployment.” That was nearly half an hour after Miller ordered the unit to prepare to deploy.

House investigators have also reviewed DOD notes from Jan. 6, including those made of a 4:08 p.m. phone call between Miller and Vice President Mike Pence.

The notes repeat what other reporting has suggested: that Pence told Miller to “clear the Capitol,” a directive that has raised questions about whether Pence stepped outside the chain of command.

The notes also suggest that Pence himself was confused about what was happening.

“Why were more troops not provided in advance?” Pence asked during the call, the notes say.

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