As I noted over a week ago, the D.C. government had prepared much more aggressively for the planned pro-Trump protests scheduled for January 6, than for the BLM protests turned riots in May-June. These preparations included activating the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate its response to the protests with federal law enforcement and making this a law enforcement “all hands on deck” event.
The downtown area became a no-firearms zone, and the mayor also requested that the city’s D.C. National Guard (Guard) support local police. However, the deployment of National Guard units was hampered by both the Congress and the Army.
Not reported is how the strong reticence to use the Guard to protect the Capitol last week was likely fueled by the uproar when President Trump employed National Guard units to protect the White House during the violent riots in May and June. At the time Trump’s wish to use Army troops to quell the riots was furiously attacked by Democrats and the media.
That outrage was still seared in everyone’s memory when the Capitol riots occurred causing the chain of command to resist using any military forces at the Capitol.
According to the Washington Post, outgoing Capitol Police chief Steven Sund, who resigned over the riot, said efforts to deploy the National Guard were hampered by the Pentagon and House and Senate security officials. Sund told the Post that his requests for Guard support were “rejected or delayed” six times before and during the Capitol Hill protest and violence.
His first request however was only two days prior to the planned protest.
The Post reported that at that time:
House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving said he wasn’t comfortable with the “optics” of formally declaring an emergency ahead of the demonstration… Meanwhile, Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger suggested that Sund should informally seek out his Guard contacts, asking them to “lean forward” and be on alert in case Capitol Police needed their help.
Both Irving and Stenger have since resigned as well.
The additional five requests by Sund did not come until approximately 8,000 pro-Trump demonstrators marched down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol after hearing Trump speak near the White House. At that point Sund reportedly urgently requested Guard support, begging for “troops on the ground.”
However, Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, director of the Army Staff reportedly said that he could not recommend that his boss, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, approve the request. The Post reported the General said: “I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background.”
Soon thereafter Sund’s outer perimeter on the Capitol’s west side was breached and the 1,400 Capitol Police officers on duty were quickly overwhelmed. “If we would have had the National Guard, we could have held them at bay longer, until more officers from our partner agencies could arrive,” he said, according to the Post.
The Post also added that the Pentagon had a different take on the event. Pentagon officials emphasized that “the Capitol Police did not ask for D.C. Guard backup ahead of the event or request to put a riot contingency plan in place with guardsmen at the ready, and then made an urgent request as rioters were about to breach the building, even though the Guard isn’t set up to be a quick-reaction force like the police.”
“We rely on Capitol Police and federal law enforcement to provide an assessment of the situation,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said during a news conference last week. “And based on that assessment that they had, they believed they had sufficient personnel and did not make a request.”
Sund appeared to back up the Pentagon view when he told the Post: “We knew it would be bigger. We looked at the intelligence. We knew we would have large crowds, the potential for some violent altercations.”
However, Sund added, “I had nothing indicating we would have a large mob seize the Capitol.”