- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The commanding general of the D.C. National Guard said Wednesday that top defense officials waited more than three hours to approve his urgent request to deploy troops to help quell rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Maj. Gen. William J. Walker described the “unusual” delay in his opening statement during a joint Senate committee hearing on the deadly attack.

Gen. Walker said he sent the request for troops after a “frantic call” for assistance from then-U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund whose voice was “cracking with emotion.” 

“Immediately after the 1:49 p.m. call with Chief Sund, I alerted the Army senior leadership of the request,” Gen. Walker said. “The approval for Chief Sund’s request would eventually come from the acting secretary of defense and be relayed to me by Army senior leaders at 5:08 p.m. — 3 hours and 19 minutes later.”

At least 155 Guardsmen could have been sent to the Capitol hours earlier if the request had been approved, he said.

“I believe that number could’ve made a difference,” Gen. Walker said. “We could’ve helped extend the perimeter and helped push back the crowd.”

Asked what prompted the stalled permission, the general said senior Army leaders were concerned about “optics” and whether it could further “incite the crowd.” 

“Gen. [Charles] Flynn and Gen. [Walter] Piatt were talking about optics, and they both said that it wouldn’t be in our best interest to have uniformed Guards members at the Capitol during the election confirmation,” Gen. Walker explained.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked Robert Salesses, a senior official performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense, homeland defense and global security, to explain why optics were an issue.

“Gen. Piatt told me yesterday that he didn’t say anything about optics,” Mr. Salesses said.

Ms. Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, said she believed Gen. Walker was using the term “optics” in a general sense, not literally.

Mr. Salesses responded by pointing out that Gen. Piatt was not a “decision-maker” that day, rather the approval came from then-acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and then-acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.

In response to whether Gen. Piatt had indeed discussed optics, Gen. Walker said “there were people in the room with me, on that call, that heard what they heard.”

The senator said they would need to follow up with more questions.

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