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D.C. National Guard commander says Pentagon stopped him from deploying troops during riot

Maj. Gen. William Walker says Pentagon officials restricted him from responding to pro-Trump rioters.

William Walker Getty

The commander for Washington, D.C.’s National Guard said he was blocked by Pentagon officials from responding to pro-Trump rioters during their attack on the Capitol. In an interview published by The Washington Post on Tuesday (Jan. 26), Maj. Gen. William Walker said his authority to deploy federal troops had been taken away from him ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“All military commanders normally have immediate response authority to protect property, life and, in my case, federal functions — federal property and life,” Walker told the outlet. “But in this instance I did not have that authority.”

Normally, Walker would have been allowed to deploy the guardsmen during an emergency. However, on the day of the insurrection, the Pentagon had required approval from Former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and then-acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, Walker said. McCarthy and Miller were appointed by Trump and both left with the end of his administration last week.

In his interview, Walker said that had he not needed McCarthy’s and Miller’s approval, he could have send the National Guard to stop rioters “with all deliberate speed.”

He added, “I mean, they’re right down the street.”

According to McCarthy, the restrictions were put in place due to the D.C. National Guard’s aggressive and widely criticized response to racial justice protests over the summer.

“After June, the authorities were pulled back up to the Secretary of Defense’s Office,” he told The Post. “Any time we would employ troops and guardsmen in the city, you had to go through a rigorous process. As you recall, there were events in the summer that got a lot of attention and that was part of this.”

McCarthy added that authority was given back to Walker ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, which saw an influx of about 25,000 guardsmen.

In the weeks since the Trump supporter-led insurrection, there has been heavy scrutiny surrounding the lack of response from Capitol Police, National Guardsmen and the Pentagon. Today, the House Appropriations Committee will receive a closed-door testimony from both McCarthy and Walker as it continues to investigate authorities’ failure to stop the rioters.

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