We Still Don't Know Why The National Guard Was Late On January 6
Last night's first hearing by the House January 6 Select Committee clarified several aspects of the attack on the Capitol, including the moment when Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) confirmed what had seemed pretty obvious all along: Donald Trump never lifted a finger to send law enforcement or the National Guard to stop the invasion of the Capitol. But there was a surprise: Mike Pence was way more "presidential" than Trump, not only because he finally decided he couldn't try to steal the election, but also in taking steps to get rampaging Trump supporters out of the Capitol.
Not only did President Trump refuse to tell the mob to leave the Capitol, he placed no call to any element of the United States government to instruct that the Capitol be defended. He did not call his secretary of Defense on January 6. He did not talk to his attorney general. He did not talk to the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump gave no order to deploy the National Guard that day. And he made no effort to work with the Department of Justice to coordinate and deploy law enforcement assets. Vice President Pence did each of those things.
As historian Heather Cox Richardson points out, Pence's actions appear to be part of "an unexplained breakdown in the usual chain of command." Pence was acting like a president, and the military leadership acted like generals, but the White House couldn't be bothered to think about the security of Congress — and why would anyone in Trumpland want to defend a branch of government full of enemies?
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley testified that Pence was very clear that the military needed to turn up and fast to “put down this situation.” In contrast, [White House Chief of Staff Mark] Meadows talked to Milley not about protecting the Capitol, but to say “we have to kill the narrative that the vice president is making all the decisions.” Milley said he saw this as “politics, politics, politics.”
Even now, it's all about the narrative: The hearings can't possibly matter to Republicans, because the facts make them look bad. So right before the start of yesterday's hearings, Republicans were right back to presenting alternative "facts" about the insurrection.
At a presser a few hours before the hearings, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Indiana), who thank Crom is not actually on the select committee, Just Asked some Questions that have in fact already been answered, although that hasn't diminished Republicans' zeal in trying to shift blame away from Trump and his people. Banks wanted to know,
Was Speaker Pelosi involved in the decision to delay National Guard assistance on Jan. 6? Those are serious and real questions that this committee refuses to even ask. Speaker Pelosi doesn’t want to answer those questions because she knows that the answers to those questions leave a trail of bread crumbs right back to her office, underscoring her negligence, her lack of leadership as the speaker of the House.
The idea that Nancy Pelosi gave a stand down order at Capitolghazi is one of Donald Trump's favorite lies, although in his telling it's usually accompanied by a second lie in which he insists he ordered 10,000 Guard troops to protect the Capitol, which Pelosi foolishly rejected. Multiple fact checks debunk this, such as the one above by PolitiFact, as well as others from the Washington Post and the Associated Press — the latter one specifically regarding the idea that Pelosi blocked a request for troops.
If you enjoy Hollow Mordant Laughter, the AP factcheck points out that the claim that Pelosi stopped the National Guard was pushed by a tweet from (drum roll please) Rep. Jim Banks himself back on July 20, 2021:
“@SpeakerPelosi, why did you block the National Guard from protecting the Capitol?” Indiana Rep. Jim Banks tweeted.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy posed a similar question on Fox News saying, “Was there a decision by the Speaker not to have the National Guard at the Capitol that day?”
As the AP explains, the actual decision, prior to January 6, had been made by
the Capitol Police Board, which is made up of the House Sergeant at Arms, the Senate Sergeant at Arms and the Architect of the Capitol. The board decided not to call the guard ahead of the insurrection but did eventually request assistance after the rioting had already begun, and the troops arrived several hours later.
The House Sergeant at Arms reports to Pelosi and the Senate Sergeant at Arms reported to McConnell, a Republican who was then Senate Majority Leader. There is no evidence that either directed the security officials not to call the guard beforehand, and [Pelosi spokesperson Drew] Hammill said after the insurrection that Pelosi was never informed of such a request.
We're looking forward to next week's hearings to learn more about what exactly went so wrong inside the Pentagon once the insurrection was underway, and why the Guard took so long to deploy. Maybe it was lizard people!
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