As two senior Trump administration officials present before Congress on Jan. 6, they prepare to justify their conduct during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, with former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller sticking behind the decision he took that day.
According to a copy of prepared remarks received by The Associated Press, Miller would inform the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday that he was worried before the insurgency that sending troops to the building would fuel concerns of a military takeover and lead to a replay of the deadly Kent State shootings.
His testimony, the first in a series of congressional hearings on the riot, is intended to counter widespread criticism that military troops were too sluggish to arrive even when pro-Trump rioters aggressively assaulted the building and rushed inside.
Miller will be represented by former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who will speak for the first time on the Justice Department’s involvement in the lead-up to the riot.
Miller would argue that he was adamant that the military’s presence be reduced, a stance coloured by disapproval of the violent reaction to the civil disturbances that roiled American cities months ago, as well as decades-old episodes that ended in bloodshed.
According to Miller’s prepared remarks, the Defense Department had a “highly bad record of helping domestic law enforcement,” both during civil rights and Vietnam War marches in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the deadly shooting of four students at Kent State University by Ohio National Guard members 51 years ago.
“I was determined not to replicate these scenarios,” he states.
Miller also denies any role in the Defense Department’s reaction by former President Donald Trump, who has been chastised for failing to strongly condemn the rioters.
Miller will be the most senior Pentagon official to attend the riot hearings. So far, the meetings also included finger-pointing over missing intelligence, insufficient planning, and an inadequate law enforcement response.
The Capitol Police have been chastised for being woefully understaffed, the FBI for failing to communicate information indicating a potential “war” at the Capitol in a timely manner, and the Defense Department for an hours-long pause in getting help to the complex amid the vicious, lethal confusion depicted on television.
“Our hearing will provide the American people with the first chance to hear from top Trump Administration leaders about the devastating intelligence and security shortcomings that allowed this horrific terrorist assault on our nation’s Capitol,” said committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.
Rosen, for his part, is likely to reassure congress that the Justice Department “took sufficient precautions” ahead of the riot by deploying tactical and other elite forces after local police estimates suggested that 10,000 to 30,000 protesters were expected at demonstrations and protests.
Miller’s testimony would be the first detailed explanation of Pentagon conduct in months, after months of complaints that the National Guard took hours to arrive.
In his prepared remarks, he defends his opposition to a strong military response as formed in part by media “hysteria” over the potential of a military takeover or fears that the military could be used to help reverse election results.
Fearful of exacerbating those fears, as well as the risk that a soldier could be provoked into violence in a manner that could be seen as an assault on First Amendment activities, he claims he decided in the days leading up to the insurgency to deploy troops only in places away from the Capitol.
“No such thing was going to happen under my watch,” Miller continues, “but these fears, and the hysteria surrounding them, nonetheless influenced my decisions about the reasonable and selective use of our Armed Forces to assist civilian law enforcement during the Electoral College certification.” “My duty to the nation was to avoid a constitutional crisis.”
While he believes the Defense Department should not take the lead in domestic law enforcement, he believes it is critical to begin preparation talks due to concerns about a lack of cooperation and information-sharing among other departments.
Democrats have said that they want to question Miller over why the National Guard took so long to arrive amid immediate preparations for assistance. Miller claims in his prepared testimony that such complaints are unfounded, but he admits that the Guard was not rushed to the scene, which he claims was on purpose.
“This isn’t a video game where you can switch forces with the flick of a thumb, or a film that glosses over the technical difficulties and time taken to organise and synchronise with the myriad of other bodies concerned, or with compliance with the important legal standards involved with the use of those forces,” he continues.
While the timeline Miller provides in his comments largely corresponds to that given by other high-ranking officials, he stands in stark contrast to William Walker, who testified as commanding general of the D.C. National Guard about unusual Pentagon limitations that hampered his reaction. He also identified a three-hour wait between the time assistance was required and when it was delivered.
Walker has since been named sergeant-at-arms of the House, in charge of the chamber’s security.
Walker was given “all the authority he needed to complete the task,” according to Miller, and had never voiced any doubt about the powers at his disposal prior to January 6. Miller claims he ordered the deployment of 340 National Guard troops, which is the total number Walker said will be needed.
Miller says he gave his approval for the Guard to be activated at 3 p.m. The assistance did not arrive at the Capitol complex until long after 5 p.m., owing to the time-consuming nature of scheduling and preparation, according to Miller.
Miller was a White House counterterrorism advisor under Trump before being named acting defence secretary in the final months of his presidency. He took over for Mark Esper, who was sacked as defence secretary after the election for being deemed insufficiently obedient by Trump.
Miller’s sudden hiring sparked fears that he was in position to serve as a Trump ally. Maloney hinted at a fixation on Trump during the hearing on Wednesday, saying his “racist rhetoric angered and incited the angry mob.”
Miller, on the other hand, says in his opening speech that he thinks Trump “encouraged the protesters,” but refuses to say if Trump is to blame. He recalls a meeting on Jan. 5 in which Trump, inspired by a crowd of supporters at a rally that day, told him 10,000 troops would be expected the next day.
“The call lasted less than thirty seconds, and I did not answer substantively or elaborate. “I interpreted his remark to suggest that a significant force will be required to restore order the next day,” Miller says.