The timeline states the quick-reaction force was a few miles away at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and authorized for use by acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller “if additional support is requested by civil authorities.”
But a senior defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the Defense Department and Capitol Police hadn’t reached an agreement or settled on a concept of operation ahead of time.
The Pentagon had made plans with D.C. police, which oversees much of the city, including where violence has broken out during protests at Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House, the official said. But at Trump’s direction, his supporters instead descended on the Capitol. Law enforcement appeared to be caught flat-footed, even after weeks of threats on social media that Congress might be targeted that day.
Attempts to reach Capitol Police on Friday night and Saturday were not successful. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund announced his resignation Thursday.
On Saturday, a senior D.C. official expressed skepticism that some details in the Pentagon timeline are accurate.
While the Pentagon said it approved the use of the National Guard at the Capitol at 3:04 p.m., Washington Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and acting police chief Robert J. Contee III did not receive a phone call about until 3:26 p.m., even after Contee had pleaded an hour before for support, the D.C. official said.
Defense officials have said previously that with no plan in place with Capitol Police, there was concern about injecting National Guard forces into the situation abruptly. After absorbing frequent criticism about the thousands of National Guard members President Trump deployed in the city in June in response to protests spawned by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the Pentagon sought a much narrower mission, preparing and providing only what D.C. officials specifically requested in advance.
“We receive our intelligence from law enforcement agencies, whether they’re federal or local,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said. Defense Department officials, he added, didn’t in their “wildest imagination” envision the crowd breaching the Capitol grounds.
It’s not clear what the quick-reaction force could have done once thousands of Trump’s supporters surrounded the Capitol and some began entering the building. National Guard members at the D.C. Armory also were not deployed until Miller determined at 3 p.m. that all available D.C. National Guard forces should be sent to reinforce D.C. and Capitol police positions, according to the timeline.
The timeline states Miller was informed Trump’s supporters were moving to the Capitol at 1:05 p.m. Capitol Police ordered the evacuation of the building at 1:26 p.m., according to the Pentagon timeline.
McCarthy’s office spoke with Bowser (D) at 1:34 p.m., the Pentagon timeline said. It states she made a request for an “unspecified number of additional forces.”
Fifteen minutes later, Sund called Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, and also asked for forces, the Pentagon said.
McCarthy spoke on the phone with Bowser again at 2:22 p.m., with D.C. police and other D.C. officials also on the line.
Eight minutes later, Miller, McCarthy and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met to discuss the request for more forces. Miller approved the deployment of all available forces to assist both police forces at 3 p.m.
At 5:02 p.m., 154 members of the National Guard left the Armory. They arrived on Capitol Hill at 5:40 p.m. and were then sworn in to work with Capitol Police.
Defense officials have deflected criticism of their response to the crisis, stating law enforcement authorities were in charge and confident they had the city under control. Pro-Trump groups had openly suggested online for weeks that they might take action on Wednesday, as a protest of the president’s election loss was underway.
Additional members of the National Guard from nearby states were on the ground Thursday. It would have been nearly impossible for them to arrive more quickly, considering they were not put on notice that they might be needed, said Maj. Gen. Timothy Gowen, the top officer in the Maryland National Guard.
Gowen suggested National Guard members might need to manage expectations better.
“We are not a first-response force,” he said. “We are not the fire or police.”
Julie Zauzmer contributed to this report.