Why Top Defense Officials Held Back National Guard On January 6
Almost a year after that the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, the events of that day continues to inspire a great deal of analysis and discussion — including the fact that the National Guard didn’t get to the Capitol sooner when it was under attack. Writers Ryan Goodman and Justin Hendrix, in an article published by Just Security this week, argue that the National Guard was “restrained” by the Pentagon because of fears that then-President Donald Trump would “invoke the Insurrection Act.”
One of the most vexing questions about January 6 is why the National Guard took more than three hours to arrive at the Capitol after D.C. authorities and Capitol Police called for immediate assistance,” Goodman and Hendrix explain. “The Pentagon’s restraint in allowing the Guard to get to the Capitol was not simply a reflection of officials’ misgivings about the deployment of military force during the summer 2020 protests; nor was it simply a concern about ‘optics’ of having military personnel at the Capitol. Instead, evidence is mounting that the most senior defense officials did not want to send troops to the Capitol because they harbored concerns that President Donald Trump might utilize the forces’ presence in an attempt to hold onto power.”
Christopher Miller, who was serving as acting secretary of defense on January 6, told the U.S. Defense Department Inspector General’s office he feared that “if we put U.S. military personnel on the Capitol, I would have created the greatest constitutional crisis probably since the Civil War.”
Miller, Goodman and Hendrix note, “does not specify who held the fears that Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act.” They also point out that Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “confided in one another that they had a persistent worry Trump would try to use the military in an attempt to hold onto power if he lost the election, the Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker reported.”
Goodman and Hendrix write, “The top officials’ fears were warranted: Donald Trump, his close aides and a segment of Republican political figures had openly discussed the possibility of invoking the Insurrection Act or using the military to prevent the transfer of power on the basis of false claims that the election was ‘stolen.’ But the Pentagon’s actions with respect to the National Guard suggest a scenario in which, on the basis of such concerns, a potentially profound crisis of command may have played out on January 6.”
In other words, their report suggests that the National Guard may have failed to adequately protect Congress because top military officials feared Trump could turn around and use the troops to undermine the Constitution itself. Presumably, the January 6 select committee is examining this and other lines of inquiry in their largely behind-the-scenes investigation.
Article reprinted with permission from Alternet