Former acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said “irresponsible commentary by the media” about a possible military coup factored in to his decision to provide an initially “limited” military response when crowds of pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Rumors that White House advisors to President Trump were pushing him to declare martial law following the 2020 election also were considered that day, Mr. Miller told Congress on Wednesday in testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
“No such thing was going to occur on my watch,” Mr. Miller said. “The concerns and hysteria about them nonetheless factored into my decisions regarding the appropriate and limited use of our armed forces to support civilian law enforcement during the Electoral College certification.”
During a hearing that frequently slid into partisan sniping from both sides, Mr. Miller praised the work of the D.C. National Guard during the rioting. “The Department of Defense and our members of the armed forces performed magnificently,” he said. “I stand by every decision I made.”
Democrats on the committee accused President Trump of inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol and criticized Mr. Miller for what they said were needless delays in mobilizing National Guard troops to quell the rioting.
“The world looked to the Department of Defense to protect our government from attack,” said Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York. “Yet, the Department of Defense did not authorize the deployment of D.C. National Guard troops to the capital until nearly four hours after local officials first pleaded for help.”
Mr. Miller told lawmakers that the military’s response to the demonstrations at the Capitol was anything but slow, asserting that such criticism reflects either a lack of understanding of how complex military operations can be or is simply the result of politics.
“I suspect a combination of both of these factors,” he said. “This isn’t a video game where you can move forces with a flick of a thumb.”
Republicans sought during Wednesday’s hearing to paint the Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol as patriots harassed by law enforcement.
The Justice Department has charged more than 400 people in connection with the riot.
Democrats, meanwhile, clashed repeatedly with Mr. Miller over the hours-long gap between when the National Guard was first requested and the time troops arrived, with some hurling personal insults.
Rep. Ro Khanna of California told Mr. Miller he was dumbfounded “we had someone like you in that role.”
Mr. Miller, a former Green Beret who once commanded the 5th Special Forces Group in Iraq, shot back at times.
“That’s completely inaccurate,” Mr. Miller replied after Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois had said: “You were AWOL, Mr. Secretary.”
The colliding lines of questioning, and a failure to settle on a universally agreed-upon set of facts during Wednesday’s hearing, underscored the challenges Congress faces as it sets out to investigate the violence and government missteps that occurred on January 6th.
Republican lawmakers on the committee sought during the hearing to equate what occurred at the Capitol with violence in American cities last summer that arose from racial justice protests that they said Democrats had failed to forcefully condemn.
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona played video footage of violence outside a federal courthouse last summer, while Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia said that while “there were some rioters” on Jan. 6, it was a “bald-faced lie” to call what occurred at the Capitol an insurrection.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.