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‘Clear the Capitol’: Pence pleaded for military assistance as rioters stormed Congress

Oliver O'Connell
·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

As pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol on 6 January, then-vice president Mike Pence made an urgent call to the acting defence secretary from a secure room.

On the phone to Christopher Miller, Mr Pence demanded: “Clear the Capitol.”

Order would not be restored for hours at Congress, nor in the streets around the complex.

Details of the call and other communications between congressional leaders and the military were revealed in a previously undisclosed document seen by the Associated Press.

The timeline of events that day was prepared by the Pentagon for internal use. The newswire had it vetted by current and former government officials.

According to the timeline, at 4.08pm, some two hours after the gates of the complex were initially breached, and after chants to hang Mike Pence had been heard, the vice president called Mr Miller demanding answers and a deadline for securing the building.

Mr Pence was not the only official making pleas for the military to intervene. Elsewhere in the building from their own secure locations, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made similar calls.

An hour after rioters had entered the Senate chamber, a desperate Mr Schumer said: “We need help.”

“Tell POTUS to tweet everyone should leave,” the senator implored officials at one point.

On a later call, the acrimony between congressional leadership and the Pentagon reportedly bubbled over, with an accusation that the National Security apparatus knew of a plan to assault the Capitol, according to the timeline.

Ms Pelosi’s spokesperson told the AP that there was a brief discussion of the intelligence failures that led to the insurrection.

Officials at the Pentagon were also worried that the violence was not just occurring in Washington after media reports of trouble at state capitals made them fear a national insurrection was underway. This turned out to be false.

The timeline laid out in the document furthers the understanding of the institutional chaos that ensued during the 6 January Capitol riot.

The lack of any action on the day by then-president Donald Trump hampered the response from the military and law enforcement.

Any delays or tactical errors on the part of the response also appear to be eclipsed by a complete failure by the government to grasp the scale and ferocity of the insurrection.

With no direction from the Oval Office, the leadership vacuum was filled by a small group of White House aides, Pentagon officials, congressional leadership, and a vice president holed up in a secure bunker, according to the document.

Even with this new timeline, as well as hours of sworn testimony, the AP notes that there is still only a partially complete picture of how the violent insurrection advanced so quickly, delaying the peaceful transfer of power to then-president elect Joe Biden.

The timeline does detail frantic phone calls, pleas for additional support, and a delay of 90 minutes while deployed National Guard troops were recalled and issued with new gear suited to the escalating situation — all despite cabinet-level preparation for the possible use of the guard some three days prior.

Guard troops eventually arrived on site at 5.20pm and began clearing the crowds. The Capitol was secured by 8pm.

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