Pentagon Didn't Delay Aid to the Besieged Capitol on Jan. 6, Watchdog Says

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The District of Columbia National Guard stand outside the Capitol.
In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, the District of Columbia National Guard stand outside the Capitol, after a day of rioting protesters. (John Minchillo/AP File Photo)

The Pentagon responded appropriately and did not delay urgent requests for National Guard troops after pro-Trump rioters broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, a Defense Department inspector general probe has found.

Former Defense Secretary Chris Miller and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy acted reasonably in "light of the circumstances that existed on that day" to deploy additional soldiers more than three hours after numerous calls for help poured in from D.C. and federal officials, according to the IG report released Tuesday.

The lack of National Guard reinforcements to the Capitol until the evening of Jan. 6 sparked widespread criticism and questions from Congress, which had been targeted in the historic breach of the U.S. seat of government.

In March, the commanding general of the D.C. Guard, Maj. Gen. William Walker, testified to the Senate that the Pentagon delayed unnecessarily in responding to a request for assistance from the overwhelmed U.S. Capitol Police, and kept help from arriving for hours when it could have arrived in minutes, according to The Associated Press.

Walker was among those interviewed for the review. But the IG found no evidence to support the claim.

"We also determined that DoD officials did not delay or obstruct the DoD's response" to the Capitol Police request for assistance on Jan. 6, according to the report.

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A week of prior preparation by the Pentagon and local authorities for potential civilian disruptions after former President Donald Trump announced a major protest on that day was also appropriate and complied with the law.

"We looked for a role or responsibility for the DoD to act preemptively to prevent or deter what later happened at the Capitol. We found none," the independent watchdog concluded.

A large crowd left a rally by Trump, who falsely claimed the presidential election had been fraudulent, around 1 p.m. on Jan. 6 and marched to the Capitol, where hundreds of people broke through sparsely guarded security barriers, smashed Capitol windows, assaulted police, and eventually forced their way into the Senate chamber and lawmaker offices.

The riot triggered the evacuation of lawmakers -- House members barricaded inside their chamber -- and it briefly disrupted the official certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Rioters assaulted 140 police officers and did a total of $1.5 million in damage to the Capitol building. About 675 people have been arrested, coming from nearly every state, according to the Justice Department.

As the mayhem unfolded, the Pentagon and D.C. National Guard began receiving calls for support and immediate assistance beginning at 1:49 p.m., according to the IG, who interviewed top military, U.S. Capitol Police and district officials, and reviewed reams of documents, call logs and emails to piece together the events.

Steven Sund, the former chief of the Capitol Police, made an official request for National Guard support at the Capitol at 2:20 p.m. during a conference call with Army staff and the D.C. government.

McCarthy relayed the request to Miller, who had been appointed by Trump after the president fired his predecessor during the post-election political tumult. Miller approved mobilization of the D.C. Guard at 3:04 p.m.

But McCarthy then traveled to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department headquarters and, with officials there, created a Guard deployment plan, which was immediately approved by Miller at 4:32 p.m.

Guard troops coming on duty after the deployment plan was approved left the D.C. Armory east of the Capitol at 5:15 p.m. and moved to the Capitol Police headquarters, where they were sworn in as special policemen. 

"The response force then moved to the Capitol, arriving at 5:55 p.m., and joined civilian law enforcement personnel in reinforcing the perimeter and clearing the Capitol grounds," the IG reported.

Public criticism of the response in the days after the riot sparked finger-pointing among officials.

McCarthy, who resigned two weeks after the riot, criticized the overall planning leading up to Jan. 6 and blamed a system that was "overly bureaucratic" in an interview with CNN in January. 

Miller said he stood by all of his decisions that day in testimony to the House in May.

-- Travis Tritten can be reached at travis.tritten@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten. 

Related: What Happened to Members of the Military Accused of Storming the Capitol on January 6?

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