US Army leadership initially refused a request from the Washington, DC government to deploy a small group of National Guard troops to the nation’s capital in anticipation of the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally, an internal draft memo has revealed.
Obtained by The Washington Post, the internal memo indicates that the senior military officials believed the US Army did not need to be involved in the day’s security detail unless more than 100,000 attendees were expected to present at the rally, of which thousands of Trump loyalists broke away from and proceeded to storm the US Capitol.
The memo also urged for the request to be rejected on the basis that a federal agency had not been picked to run the preparations or the operations that would take place as events kicked off, and that no resources from other federal agencies had been exhausted. Additionally, it was noted that local law enforcement were “far better suited” for the policing operation.
Citing four anonymous sources familiar with the matter, the Post reported that the military branch’s hesitance was further relayed during talks held at the US Department of Defense the weekend before the “Stop the Steal” was scheduled to take place near the White House.
Sources also revealed to the outlet that the deployment was only cleared after US Army officials came under pressure by then-acting US Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, as well as realizing that local Washington leaders were not going to reach out to the Justice Department for assistance.
Although military leadership did end up giving into the request, which was made via a letter dated December 31 by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, the service’s initial response toward the personnel plea highlights the hesitancy that was felt among the top ranks of the military.
Asked about the report, Col. Cathay Wilkinson, a spokesperson for the US Army, explained in a statement to the Post that the “draft memo was not signed or approved,” noting that it was “customary for the Army staff to provide options for Army senior leaders to inform their decision making process.”
Unlike the 50 US states in which governors have the final say on deploying National Guard troops, in Washington, DC, that falls on the shoulders of the US president, who delegates the authority to both the US defense secretary and the Army secretary.
Earlier, as congressional lawmakers held a slew of hearings to gain a better understanding of the January 6 security breaches that allowed thousands of individuals to storm the Capitol, it was revealed the National Guard remained on standby for a period of just over three hours during the siege.
At the time, Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the DC National Guard, told senators that the delay was the result of last-minute protocol changes, and also because some officials were worried about how the American public might view the military’s efforts to control the riot.
Concerns were primarily rooted in the response by US troops during the June protests in the city that saw peaceful protesters violently ushered away from the White House.
The latest findings by the Post come on the heels of a recent extension granted by the Pentagon allowing National Guard troops to remain in Washington, DC, for an additional two months. The nation’s capital has remained on high alert amid concerns of potential domestic terrorism threats.