According to a newly released investigation, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard was directed twice by Pentagon leadership to send in troops as violence engulfed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, undermining the now-retired general’s claim that he would have responded to the riot more quickly if Trump administration officials had allowed.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy called Maj. Gen. William Walker at 4:35 p.m. to inform him that he was authorized to send troops to Capitol Hill, and then called the general again about 30 minutes later “to reissue the deployment order,” an unidentified Army witness told investigators with the independent Defense Department Inspector General, according to a newly released report. The inspector general’s office assembled a timeline of events that day, which shows separate calls were made.
The findings of the investigation cast new light on Walker, who was praised earlier this year for his candor in publicly recounting how dysfunction at the Pentagon stymied the National Guard’s response as supporters of President Donald Trump brutalized police and panicked lawmakers pleaded for assistance. Walker stated at a joint Senate hearing on March 3 that he had a quick reaction force (QRF) ready and was frustrated by the speed with which senior defense officials were responding. He told senators that he received approval to deploy at 5:08 p.m. The Capitol was breached at 1:50 p.m.
Three weeks after the Senate hearing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appointed Walker as House sergeant-at-arms, calling him a “leader of great integrity” and a “important asset to the House, particularly in light of the January 6 insurgency.”
In a phone interview late Wednesday, Walker expressed surprise that the inspector general’s office released what he called inaccurate, uncorroborated statements by anonymous Army officials. He claimed he attempted to send personnel to the Capitol hours earlier and was ready to go when he was notified. Walker stated that he was not permitted to respond to the anonymous statements prior to the report, describing the inspector general’s work as sloppy and demonstrating that he is up against “the most powerful Army in the world.”
It’s unclear why Walker was never questioned about the claims that he was told twice to dispatch his forces. Megan Reed, a spokeswoman for the Inspector General’s Office, stated that she could not comment on the office’s oversight processes as a matter of practice. According to the investigation, the Pentagon’s response was “reasonable in light of the circumstances.” Walker testified before Congress that memorandums issued by McCarthy and Trump’s acting defense secretary, Christopher C. Miller, limited his ability to dispatch the National Guard quickly, but Army officials interviewed by the inspector general said Walker was aware of those decisions ahead of time and did not object.
The disparity in timelines has previously been raised. Days after the attack, the Pentagon released an account of events in which Miller gave verbal authorization to “re-mission” the National Guard in support of Capitol Police at 4:32 p.m., and Guardsmen began leaving the D.C. Armory exactly 30 minutes later. A call at 4:32 p.m. was not mentioned in a National Guard timeline released in January.
Walker, McCarthy, Miller, and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were among the 44 witnesses interviewed by investigators. Members of the Army staff and the D.C. National Guard were among those who testified, as were D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III, and former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who was forced to resign following the attack.
Walker told the inspector general’s investigators, echoing his Senate testimony, that he was “stunned” and “frustrated” during a 2:22 p.m. conference call when city officials requested National Guard assistance and senior Army officers — Lt. Gens. Charles Flynn and Walter Piatt — advised against providing it.
Other witnesses interviewed as part of the investigation stated that Piatt was concerned about public backlash from the sight of uniformed military personnel potentially confronting political protesters, but that the Army had not ruled out assisting and needed a plan before putting soldiers in the fray. Flynn’s involvement became controversial because his brother is retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a former Trump adviser who called for the military to participate in re-running the 2020 election.