WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials placed “unusual” restrictions on the D.C. National Guard before the Capitol riot, its commander told senators on Wednesday, saying the military leaders’ fears of a repeat of aggressive tactics used during racial justice protests last year slowed decision-making and squandered time as the violence by a pro-Trump mob escalated.
Military and federal security officials detailed in a joint Senate committee hearing the additional security breakdowns that led to the failure to quell the mob attack on Jan. 6. Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the D.C. National Guard commander, said he did not receive approval to mobilize troops until more than three hours after he had requested it.
The delay he outlined was longer than previously known and came to light in the latest hearing by lawmakers investigating the attack.
Days before the riot, the Pentagon had removed General Walker’s authority to quickly deploy his troops, he testified. He said he was unable to move troops even from one traffic stop to another without permission from Ryan D. McCarthy, the Army secretary. Once General Walker had approval for deployment, the Guard arrived at the Capitol only minutes later, at 5:20 p.m., and helped re-establish the security perimeter on the east side of the building.
injuries to nearly 140 police officers and left five people dead.
“That number could have made a difference,” General Walker said of the possibility of deploying his troops earlier.
“Seconds mattered,” he added. “Minutes mattered.”
In response to questions from senators, General Walker said he believed that a double standard existed in the military decision-making, pointing out differences between the quick and aggressive tactics he was authorized to use during protests last spring and summer of police killings of Black men and the slower response to the violence of Trump supporters. He said military officials had expressed concerns about the optics of sending troops into the Capitol to subdue Americans.
“The Army senior leaders did not think it looked good” and did not think “it would be a good optic,” General Walker said. “The word I kept hearing was the ‘optics’ of it.”
When asked whether a similar debate had played out last year, General Walker said no.
“It was never discussed the week of June,” he said. “It was never discussed July 4, when we were supporting the city. It was never discussed Aug. 28, when we supported the city.”
devolved into violence. He said he had received a “frantic call” at 1:49 p.m. from Steven A. Sund, then the chief of the Capitol Police, about half an hour before rioters breached the Capitol.
“Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency at the Capitol,” General Walker testified. “He requested the immediate assistance of as many available National Guardsmen I could muster.”