The US Department of Defense took more than three hours to approve a deployment of the DC National Guard to the deadly riot at the US Capitol, the commanding general of the DC unit revealed during a Wednesday hearing.
Maj. Gen. William Walker told senators at a congressional hearing that it took officials at the Pentagon approximately 3 hours and 19 minutes to issue a required approval from then-acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller.
"At 1:49 p.m. I received a frantic call from then-Chief of US Capitol Police, Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter at the Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters," Walker told the Senate Homeland and Rules committees in a joint hearing.
"Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency on Capitol Hill and requested the immediate assistance of as many Guardsmen as I could muster."
Although Walker “immediately” issued the deployment request up the chain of command, he didn’t receive the official clearance until approximately 5:08 p.m., at which time thousands of Trump supporters had already trespassed onto the federal grounds and were then at a standoff with US Capitol Police officers who had been stationed at the building.
Awaiting the approval, Walker told lawmakers that he had ordered National Guard troops onto buses so that the unit would be ready to move out at a moment’s notice. Once the permission was given, forces arrived at the scene in less than 20 minutes.
“Seconds mattered, minutes mattered,” Walker said, adding that had he been given the authorization sooner, the 150-plus troops he deployed “could have made a difference.”
“We could have helped extend the perimeter and helped push back the crowd,” he stressed.
Walker’s testimony also backed up earlier revelations that he was barred from deploying any forces himself, unless he was first granted explicit approval by then-Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. The DC commander described the sudden change as “unusual.”
Additionally, Walker stated senior leadership, particularly Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt and Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, were hesitant about deploying the Guard over concerns about how it would look to the American public to send troops to the scene.
"They both said it wouldn't be in their best military advice to advise the secretary of the Army to have uniformed guards members at the Capitol during the election confirmation," Walker recalled, before noting that he was “stunned” and “frustrated” by the response.
Once troops finally arrived at the Capitol, they were able to reestablish a security perimeter at the east side of the building, ultimately helping lawmakers to return to the congressional chamber and resume the certification of the US election results.
Increased Threat of Domestic Terror Likely to Go Into 2022
Wednesday’s proceedings also saw testimony be given by Jill Sanborn, the FBI’s assistant director of the counterterrorism division, among other officials asked to give their recount of the January 6 events.
Sanborn told lawmakers that investigators have determined that racially-motivated extremists and anti-government extremists would more than likely become the biggest domestic threats the US may face going into 2022.
“Looking forward, we assess the domestic violent extremist threat will continue to pose an elevated threat of violence to the US,” Sanborn said. "We expect racially or ethnically motivated and violent extremists and anti-government, anti-authority violent extremists will very likely pose the greatest domestic terrorism threats throughout 2021, and in fact leading into 2022.”
The FBI official’s remarks came as law enforcement in the nation’s capital has been on high alert over concerns that an “unidentified militia group” may attempt to “breach the Capitol” on Thursday.
The US Capitol Police revealed earlier on Wednesday that the agency had obtained information supporting the reports. “We are taking this intelligence seriously,” the force said in a release.
It’s worth noting that some individuals aligned with the QAnon conspiracy theory movement have seen March 4 as the day that former US President Donald Trump will take back the White House. The theory itself is rooted in the fact that March 4 was previously the date that American presidents were inaugurated until the ratification of the 20th Amendment.
National Guard troops have remained in Washington, DC, since the Capitol unrest in an effort to ensure calm and safety in the region. Local station Fox 5 previously reported that the Guard may stay until the fall.