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Former Pentagon Chief Defends Response to Jan. 6 Capitol Attack

“On Jan. 6, 2021; 8,000 local and federal law enforcement officers were on duty in the District of Columbia. I was told during planning sessions that such a force routinely manages demonstrations well north of 100,000 demonstrators. That is what they are, trained, equipped, chartered and expected to do. Many commentators have mischaracterized my instructions, and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy’s accompanying guidance, is somehow contributing to the inability of the Guard to respond, or even worse, that those instructions somehow enabled the mob to enjoy an easy path to the Capitol. That is completely false. We did not disarm the National Guard. The request from the mayor was for unarmed support of local law enforcement, and we authorized the support she and General Walker requested. I ask you to consider what the response in Congress and in the media had been, if I had unilaterally deployed thousands of troops into Washington, D.C., that morning against the expressed wishes of the mayor and the Capitol Police, who indicated they were prepared.” “You were the acting secretary of defense on Jan. 6. Did President Trump, as the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces call you during the Jan. 6 attack to ensure the Capitol was being secured?” “No, I had all the authority I needed from the president to fulfill my constitutional duties.” “Did you speak with President Trump at all as the attack was unfolding?” “On Jan. 6?” “Yes.” “No, I did not, I didn’t need to, I had all the authority I needed, and knew what I had to have. I knew what had to happen.” “Did you speak with Vice President Pence during the attack? Yes or no?” “Yes.” “According to a Defense Department timeline, it was Vice President Pence, and not President Trump, who called during the siege to say the Capitol was not secure, and to give you the direction to, quote, ‘clear the Capitol.’ What specifically did Vice President Pence say to you that day?” “Vice president’s not in the chain of command. He did not direct me to clear the Capitol. I discussed very briefly with him the situation. He provided insights based on his presence there.”

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