The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Jan. 6 committee yet again debunks Trump claim of 10,000 troops

(Marco Bello/Reuters)
5 min

“The highly partisan Unselect Committee Report purposely fails to mention the failure of Pelosi to heed my recommendation for troops to be used in D.C.”

— former president Donald Trump, in a post on Truth Social, Dec. 22

Trump and his defenders have repeatedly claimed that the violence at the Capitol two years ago would have been prevented if only his order for 10,000 troops had been heeded. We have explored this claim twice before and debunked it, each time awarding Four Pinocchios.

But now the Jan. 6 committee has released its report and dozens of transcribed interviews that provide new details on the meetings in which Trump claims he requested troops at the Capitol.

Trump, in his post, says he made a “recommendation for troops” and that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) failed to act on it. But the evidence shows Trump did not issue any formal request — so there was nothing for Pelosi to heed. The committee report says it found “no evidence” to support the claim that he ordered 10,000 troops.

Moreover, the committee said that when he referenced so many troops, it was not because he wanted to protect the Capitol. He “floated the idea of having 10,000 National Guardsmen deployed to protect him and his supporters from any supposed threats by left-wing counterprotesters,” the report said.

The report says that Trump brought up the issue on at least three occasions but in such vague and obtuse ways that no senior official regarded his words as an order. Here’s what we know now about his statements at the time:

Jan. 3 meeting with acting defense secretary Christopher Miller

At the end of a meeting with military officials concerning a national security threat, Trump asked “in passing” about preparations for Jan. 6, when electoral votes certifying Joe Biden as the new president would be counted in Congress, the report says. Before the vote, Trump planned a speech to supporters on the National Mall.

Miller, in his interview, said he may have conflated this meeting with a phone call two days later. He had originally told Vanity Fair that the meeting — in which a 10,000-troop figure was discussed — took place on Jan. 5. But he now believes the number came up in a Jan. 5 phone call, not the Jan. 3 meeting. “We didn’t talk about size” on Jan. 3, Miller told investigators. “It was more, ‘What was the Department of Defense’s plan for support to law enforcement.’ ”

“Never once did I hear the president relative to the 6th specify the number of troops, 10,000 or any other number, for that matter,” said Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who also attended the meeting.

Jan. 4 meeting with Pierson

During a meeting with Katrina Pierson, who was organizing Trump’s rally on the Mall, the president expressed a desire to march with his supporters to the Capitol, she told investigators.

White House senior adviser Max Miller said he “shot it down immediately” because of concerns for Trump’s safety. Trump then suggested 10,000 National Guardsmen could protect him and his supporters — a figure that Pierson recorded. “I opened my folder and wrote down 10,000 National Guard, closed my folder again,” she recalled. (Miller did not recall the number.)

Miller replied: “We should only call the Guard if we expect a problem.”

Trump asked: “Well, are we going to expect a problem?”

After the meeting, Miller texted Pierson, “Just glad we killed the national guard and a procession.” Pierson responded with a heart emoji.

Jan. 5 phone call with Miller

Trump was watching news coverage of a rally of his supporters at Freedom Plaza when he placed a call to Miller. “They were going to need 10,000 troops the following day,” Miller recalled Trump saying, referring to law enforcement.

Miller said “the call lasted fewer than 30 seconds, and I did not respond substantively, and there was no elaboration.” He added that “I interpreted it as a bit of presidential banter or President Trump banter that you all are familiar with, and in no way, shape, or form did I interpret that as an order or direction.” He noted that he expected no more than 35,000 supporters to attend — though Trump apparently had expectations of 1 million — and 10,000 National Guard troops did not appear necessary.

In 2021, Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News that “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.” But Miller told investigators that statement was false, adding, “I was surprised by seeing that publicly.” (Meadows did not agree to be interviewed by the Jan. 6 Committee.)

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