But Walker says he didn’t get approval until after 5 p.m. – long after rioters had passed the Capitol, sending lawmakers to flee for safety reasons. He particularly singled out Defense Secretary Christopher Miller as he described Sund’s slow request.
“Therefore, at 5:20 pm (in less than 20 minutes), the District of Columbia National Guard arrived at Capitol Hill,” Walker wrote. “We helped re-establish the security perimeter on the east side of the Capitol to facilitate the resumption of the joint session of Congress.”
Walker’s testimony adds a new piece to the puzzle of the security loopholes and miscommunication that allowed a violent mob to wreck the Capitol and delay the certification of the 2020 election results. He is the latest official to suggest that senior military officials were partly responsible for tying the hands of security officials on the ground as they scrambled to respond to the threat.
Walker also agreed with Capitol Hill security officials that Pentagon leaders gave a lukewarm response to urgent pleas for help during a 2:30 p.m. plea on January 6.
“Senior military officials didn’t think it would be good” to send troops to Capitol Hill and are also concerned about further incitement to violent mobs, Walker said.
Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy was not on call, according to Walker, although others wanted him to be. Walker described this coordination as a stark contrast to the military response to civil unrest during the racial justice protests over the summer, when McCarthy was in real-time contact with him to assist the forces of the order.
Walker added that if the Pentagon had approved the request earlier, it would have made a significant difference in the security response: “We could have helped extend the perimeter and repel the crowd.”
Walker said the 2:30 p.m. call included Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, who was among those concerned about the optics of the Capitol Guard, and Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, who echoed those concerns. Flynn is the brother of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn – one of the main supporters of the annulment of the election results.
The three officials charged with protecting lawmakers that day – Sund, former House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving and former Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael Stenger – accused the Pentagon of slowing down its urgent requests. help from the National Guard. They described a 2:30 p.m. conference call on January 6 in which a senior military official indicated he was concerned about the “optics” of a heavily armed National Guard force protecting the Capitol and said that he would probably urge the superiors to reject their request. It took several more hours for the troops to arrive and help retake the Capitol.
Robert Salesses, a senior Pentagon official who deals with homeland defense, plans to push back Walker’s count when he testifies later Wednesday. In written testimony, Salesses said Miller approved the “full activation” of the DC National Guard at 3:04 p.m. The guards were ordered to leave for the Capitol at 4:32 p.m., Salesses added.
Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also supports the Pentagon’s version of events. He told reporters on Tuesday that the Pentagon reacted with “sprint speed” to Congress’ request for help. Mobilizing a large force of guards in a few hours amounts to lightning speed in military terms, he stressed.
Walker’s account is the first official testimony from the executive branch of its response to Capitol Hill’s request for help. Other intelligence officials tasked with informing law enforcement partners about imminent threats are also expected to testify in the Senate on Wednesday.
Among them, Melissa Smislova, senior internal security official in charge of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis; Jill Sanborn, who heads the FBI’s counterterrorism division, and Robert Salesses, the top Pentagon official responsible for homeland defense and global security.
Sund and other Capitol Hill security officials said intelligence warnings they received in the days leading up to the Jan.6 attack did not support the need to field a significant National Guard presence .
On the contrary, they said, the available intelligence suggested the volume of protesters would resemble the turnout in November and December, when pro-Trump rallies sparked spasms of violence but were ultimately contained. Never, said these former Capitol Hill security officials, had they planned for an organized and coordinated assault on the legislature that would overwhelm the 1,200 officers on site and result in a breach of the building.
Instead of looking in advance for a solid National Guard presence, these former Capitol Hill security officials said they asked Walker to just be ready if they needed him. Walker, they said, offered to place 125 National Guard units in support roles, such as the traffic department, to help free Capitol Police for more direct engagements with protesters.
One of the sharpest points of disagreement between the three Capitol officials – who all resigned in the wake of the insurgency – is the timing of their requests for National Guard assistance, once it was over. clear that the Capitol would be outdated. Sund, whose account was supported by Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, said he contacted Irving around 1 p.m. on Jan.6 to request permission to seek National Guard assistance .
But Irving says he didn’t hear from Sund until 1:28 p.m. and didn’t receive a formal request for National Guard assistance until after 2:00 p.m., when Sund reached out to Irving and Stenger together. The hour-long gap in officials’ memories has propelled an ongoing dispute as Congress begins its investigation into the security response to the insurgency.
The intelligence assessment that led Capitol Hill security officials to reject the need for preventive National Guard support is also at issue. An FBI intelligence assessment sent Jan. 5 by the local office of the Norfolk office, which described those descending to Washington as ready for “war,” never reached senior officials. And even if it did, they said, much of the information was pulled from social media and was “raw” and “unverified.”
Nonetheless, Sund, Pittman and Washington, DC Acting Police Chief Robert Contee III said the office had not raised a significant alarm about information that may have brought it to their attention.
FBI Director Christopher Wray offered his agency’s timeline of events on Tuesday. Wray agreed the intelligence was “unsubstantiated” and said it underscored the challenge for investigators seeking to separate social media hyperbole from actionable information.
Sanborn adding additional details about the FBI’s response to the Jan.6 assault, telling lawmakers that FBI tactical teams helped respond to reports of explosive devices placed near Republican and Democratic Party headquarters that day.
“One of the FBI’s tactical teams coordinated with the United States Capitol Police and the United States Secret Service to provide additional protection to a US Secret Service protégé still in the building,” Sanborn said, adding that ” other FBI special agents were providing perimeter security at the United States Capitol and the areas where the explosive devices were found.
Wednesday’s hearing took place as Sund’s successor as Capitol Police chief Pittman urged lawmakers to increase his department’s budget by $ 70 million to address gaps revealed by the insurgency . She said she was seeking funds to revamp the department’s intelligence-sharing technology and deal with sharply increasing threats against lawmakers, which soared more than 93% last year.
Pittman also described significant resources given to officers affected by the Jan.6 assault, including counseling for them and their families, hotel stays and hot meals.