Major General William J. Walker told The Washington Post on Tuesday that his authority as a commander – which typically allows him to deploy National Guard troops in an emergency – was essentially removed prior to the riot carried out by the former president’s supporters.
The Pentagon had required higher level sign-off for any National Guard deployment on the day the attack on the US Capitol took place, amid other powers, Gen. Walker told the Post.
"All military commanders normally have immediate response authority to protect property, life, and in my case, federal functions – federal property and life,” Gen. Walker said. “But in this instance I did not have that authority.”
He added that the request by the Pentagon meant there was a delay to deploying troops by several hours, even though 40 members of the National Guard were on standby to support guardsmen already on patrol in Washington DC.
Former acting defence secretary Christopher C. Miller and former Army secretary Ryan C. McCarthy were the two Trump-appointed officials that Gen. Walker had to seek approval from, for more deploying troops.
Gen. Walker said he was unable to immediately respond to a phone call from the Capitol Police chief, Steven Stund, who warned that supporters of Mr Trump were about to breach the Capitol – just 25 minutes before the breach occurred, according to the Post.
“I told him I had to get permission from the secretary of the Army and I would send him all available guardsmen but as soon as I got permission to do so,” Gen. Walker said. “I sent a message to the leadership of the Army, letting them know the request that I had received from Chief Sund.”
Mr Sund resigned from his position after the riot, in which five people died. As did the House Sergeant at Arms has told and Michael Stenger, the Senate Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper, who are also responsible for securing Congress.
The commander added that the delay to deploying more troops was caused by both the Capitol Police and the District government not asking the National Guard to prepare in advance, as well as the Pentagon’s request for authorisation.
Gen. Walker and Mr McCarthy are both due to appear in front the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday behind closed doors, in what marks the start of a congressional inquiry into the events of 6 January, amid criticism of multiple authorities’ responses.
Mr McCarthy said in a statement that the restrictions placed on the DC National Guard commander were “[a] part of” the response to widespread protests in the summer, and that he attempted to restore authority to Gen. Walker before the Capitol riot.
Memos seen by the Post, and dated in the days leading up to the Capitol riot, however sought to remind Gen. Walker that he needed authorisation to deploy the 40 reserve troops.
Other senior defence officials have since hit back at claims they were unprepared, or responded too slowly to the pro-Trump.