Former top Trump administration officials on Wednesday sought to defend their response to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, insisting that they were prepared for and responded appropriately to the insurrection that left five people dead.
Christopher Miller, the acting defense secretary at the time, told members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that he stands by “every decision I made that day,” including not immediately deploying troops to the Capitol.
“Our nation’s armed forces are to be deployed for domestic law enforcement only when all civilian assets are expended and only as the absolute last resort,” he said.
Miller testified that he was concerned sending troops to the Capitol would fan fears of a military coup.
“There was irresponsible commentary in the media about the possibility of a military coup or that advisers to the president were advocating the declaration of martial law,” he said. “I agreed only to deploy our soldiers in areas away from the Capitol, avoiding amplifying the irresponsible narrative that your armed forces were somehow going to be co-opted in an effort to overturn the election.”
The former acting Pentagon chief said Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser requested National Guard support at 1:30 p.m. ET, shortly after the siege began. Miller said that he approved the full deployment of the National Guard at 3 p.m. and that the first troops arrived at the Capitol about two hours later.
Criticism of that response, he said, “reflects inexperience with, or a lack of understanding of, the nature of military operations, or worse, is simply the result of politics.”
Miller also bristled at the idea that he was ill prepared for the pro-Trump insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“I have been in more crisis situations than I can meaningfully recall,” he said. “I have personally been in riots, fistfights and brawls, gunfights, aircraft mishaps, mortar, rocket, attacked with improvised explosive devices, and as a leader I have engaged in the most complex military operations and activities known to humankind.”
During the same hearing, Jeffrey Rosen, former acting attorney general, said he is “proud” of the Justice Department’s response to the events on Jan. 6, saying it deployed more than 500 FBI and ATF agents and U.S. marshals to “assist in restoring order at the Capitol.”
But both Rosen and Miller testified that they were not in communication with then-President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, even after the violent mob breached the Capitol.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the panel’s chairwoman, said it is clear that the previous administration failed to adequately prepare for the attack despite Trump’s own weeks-long promotion of a rally to protest the certification of the election.
“The federal government was unprepared for this insurrection, even though it was planned in plain sight on social media for the world to see,” Maloney said in her opening remarks. “Security collapsed in the face of the mob, and reinforcements were delayed for hours as the Capitol was overrun.”
She then chastised Republican lawmakers who have promoted Trump’s baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” Maloney said, quoting Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who was removed from her GOP leadership post earlier Wednesday for repeatedly challenging Trump’s false claims.
“We must speak the truth: The election was not stolen, and America has not failed,” Maloney said. “It is time for the American people and this Congress to look at the events of Jan. 6 and say, 'Never again.'”
In prepared testimony, Miller blamed Trump’s speech at the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Jan. 6 riot for inciting the insurrection.
“I personally believe his comments encouraged the protesters that day,” Miller said in the remarks. (He made similar statements in a March interview with Vice News.)
But on Wednesday during questioning from lawmakers, Miller was reluctant to place blame on the former president.
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., accused Miller of reversing his testimony.
“That’s ridiculous,” Miller said.
“You’re ridiculous,” Lynch shot back.
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