Three hours and 19 minutes, while a riot raged at the Capitol.
That’s how long the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard says elapsed between then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund’s “frantic” plea for help quelling a violent mob and the ultimate approval of military aid by the Pentagon. The discrepancy between his estimate and the Pentagon’s conflicting testimony is now at the heart of lawmakers’ investigation into the security lapses that prolonged the siege on Congress on Jan. 6.
The conflict in officials’ accounts of their response to the insurrection came into sharper view on Wednesday, when D.C. National Guard chief William Walker told senators he was blocked from reacting quickly while Pentagon officials disputed his account. As lawmakers wrestle with an investigation into what went wrong, they found their key witnesses on very different pages.
And the overlapping narratives of Jan. 6 are hitting a Capitol already dealing with a volatile security environment, as Capitol Police warn of multiple ongoing threats — one to the as-yet-unscheduled State of the Union address and another on Thursday, when some Trump-supporting militia groups have suggested once again breaching the Capitol.
Walker, with evident exasperation, told two Senate committees that he preemptively loaded troops on buses amid the chaos of the insurrection while awaiting approval from acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller. That approval took hours to arrive, he said. In the interim, top Army leaders — including the brother of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn — pushed back, worrying that the visual of National Guard troops ringing the Capitol could “inflame” the rioters, Walker said.
Pentagon officials challenge that account, saying Miller reacted rapidly but that his approval may not have been communicated to Walker efficiently. Nonetheless, Walker testified that earlier action by the Pentagon could have made a difference. [Continue reading…]