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No, Trump did not order 10,000 troops to secure the Capitol on Jan. 6

President Donald Trump with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in May 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

“Don’t forget, President Trump requested increased National Guard support in the days leading up to January 6. The request was rejected — by Pelosi, by congressional leaders, including requests, by the way, from the Capitol Police chief.”

— Sean Hannity of Fox News, speaking to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Dec. 13

“What we also know is that President Trump wanted to make sure that the people that came, that there was a safe environment for that kind of assembly. And I’ve said that publicly before — the 10,000 National Guard troops that he wanted to make sure that everything was safe and secure. … Obviously having those National Guards available, actually the reason they were able to respond when they did, was because President Trump had actually put them on alert.”

— Meadows, to Hannity

It’s always dismaying when false claims that were previously debunked turn up as accepted facts months later. Yet, increasingly, Fox News hosts and their guests appear to live in a world untethered by the truth.

As we have documented before, President Donald Trump never requested 10,000 National Guard troops to secure the Capitol that day. He threw out a number, in casual conversation, that is now regarded by his supporters as a lifeline to excuse his inaction when a mob inspired by his rhetoric invaded the Capitol.

Let’s take a fresher course.

The Facts

Just one month after the attack, Meadows appeared on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” and made this claim: “As many as 10,000 National Guard troops were told to be on the ready by the secretary of defense. That was a direct order from President Trump.”

Later that month, Trump appeared to confirm Meadows’s account in an interview with Fox News.

“I definitely gave the number of 10,000 National Guardsmen and [said] I think you should have 10,000 of the National Guard ready,” Trump said. “They took that number. From what I understand, they gave it to the people at the Capitol, which is controlled by [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi. And I heard they rejected it because they didn’t think it would look good.”

But it turns out a Vanity Fair reporter was embedded with acting defense secretary Christopher Miller and his top aides during the period leading up to the insurrection. That real-time access provided a different version than the account offered by Trump and his former chief of staff.

During a meeting on Iran with Miller on the evening of Jan. 5, Trump suddenly shifted direction, Vanity Fair reported.

The president, Miller recalled, asked how many troops the Pentagon planned to turn out the following day. “We’re like, ‘We’re going to provide any National Guard support that the District requests,’” Miller responded. “And [Trump] goes, ‘You’re going to need 10,000 people.’ No, I’m not talking bullsh--. He said that. And we’re like, ‘Maybe. But you know, someone’s going to have to ask for it.’”

The reporter, Adam Ciralsky, asked Miller why Trump threw out such a big number: “The president’s sometimes hyperbolic, as you’ve noticed. There were gonna be a million people in the street, I think was his expectation.” (It was just thousands of people.)

In other words, 10,000 troops was a guesstimate based on Trump’s inflated belief in his ability to draw a crowd. The statement did not come as part of a meeting to discuss how to handle the event. Instead, it appears to have been an offhand remark. That’s not the same thing as a “request.” (Trump certainly knew how to order the deployment of National Guard troops in June 2020.)

In fact, the Defense Department never acted on Trump’s remarks, according to our reporting, as department officials did not regard the offhand comment to be a “direct order,” as Meadows claimed.

Miller and other senior Pentagon officials did not relay the 10,000 figure to anyone outside the Defense Department, according to a former U.S. official who was familiar with the matter. “They didn’t act on it, because based on discussions with federal and local law enforcement leadership, they didn’t think a force of that size would be necessary,” the former official told The Fact Checker.

Indeed, the official Defense Department planning and execution memo on the Jan. 6 events also makes no mention of any such discussion. Instead, it notes the possible activation of 340 National Guard troops to assist the D.C. government with traffic control — a move that came about after a Dec. 31 request by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D).

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said officials checked the records after Trump’s remarks about ordering 10,000 National Guard troops. “We have no record of such an order being given,” Kirby told The Fact Checker.

It’s worth noting that the Defense Department inspector general, in a report that said top Army leaders acted appropriately on Jan. 6, appears to place the conversation between Miller and Trump on a different date — Jan. 3.

Mr. Miller and GEN Milley met with the President at the White House at 5:30 p.m. The primary topic they discussed was unrelated to the scheduled rally. GEN Milley told us that at the end of the meeting, the President told Mr. Miller that there would be a large number of protesters on January 6, 2021, and Mr. Miller should ensure sufficient National Guard or Soldiers would be there to make sure it was a safe event. Gen Milley told us that Mr. Miller responded, “We’ve got a plan and we’ve got it covered.”

But no direct order is mentioned. On Jan. 5, the IG report says, Trump and Miller had a phone call and “the President’s guidance was to do what was required to protect the American people.” Again, Trump’s instructions appear vague.

In his recently published memoir, Meadows makes the unsupported claim that there were “several offers from the White House and DoD to send 10,000 National Guard into our nation’s capitol” before the rally but that Bowser “refused to accept their help.” As we noted, the Defense Department did not take Trump’s offhand remark seriously and officials said the figure was not mentioned outside the building. Meadows adds, “The response time, which has been largely criticized, was only possible because the National Guard had been put on alert at the president’s direction.”

Almost a year later, there continues to be confusion about why it took so long to deploy the National Guard after the Capitol was breached. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy withheld authority from William J. Walker, at the time the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, to activate the quick reaction force, a requirement that Walker in congressional testimony said was “unusual.” Other officials have testified that key Army officials were concerned about the “optics” of troops at the Capitol.

The Defense Department IG report quotes senior Army leaders as saying that they prepared to mobilize the Guard and that it took two calls from McCarthy to Walker to implement a plan.

But Walker — now the House sergeant-at-arms — and his former counsel, Col. Earl Matthews, have fiercely disputed that account, saying in a memo in response that it is “replete with factual inaccuracies, discrepancies and faulty analysis.” They said that McCarthy did not make such calls to Walker and that Army officials are trying to cover up their mistakes.

Notably, neither the IG report nor the Walker response memo make any reference to Trump having a role in the response. Vanity Fair quotes a senior defense official as saying Defense Department officials could not reach Trump during the insurrection: “They couldn’t get through. They tried to call him.” As the congressional committee investigating Jan. 6 has disclosed, Meadows was besieged with emails from lawmakers and Fox News personalities urging Trump to take action to halt the riot — emails that Meadows does not mention in his book.

Interestingly, a report by the congressional committee examining Jan. 6 events says that Meadows “sent an email to an individual about the events on January 6 and said that the National Guard would be present to ‘'protect pro Trump people’ and that many more would be available on standby.” The committee, in citing Meadows for contempt for refusing to cooperate, is seeking more information about this issue.

The Pinocchio Test

In the Hannity-Meadows version of history, Trump was a hero, ordering a massive force of National Guard troops to protect the Capitol — only to have his order of 10,000 troops rejected by liberal foes. There is no evidence to support such claims. No investigation has turned up any such order.

Rather, Trump made an offhand remark in a meeting unrelated to the events of Jan. 6, based on an inflated expectation of the crowd that would gather that day. Moreover, when the Capitol was breached, Trump was AWOL, unengaged in the effort to end the riot and restore order.

Four Pinocchios

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