A prominent US Army leader defended the Pentagon’s response to the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol building, telling a House of Representatives panel the National Guard was delayed as it had to properly prepare for its deployment.
Lieutenant General Walter Piatt also said senior military leaders had determined beforehand that the military had “no role” in determining the outcome of an election.
Lt Gen Piatt, the director of the Army staff, echoed comments from other senior military leaders about the perception of soldiers being used to secure the election process.
He said the Pentagon wanted to be careful about their response in part because of concerns about military helicopters that had flown low over Washington streets during protests over the killing of George Floyd by police in the summer of 2020.
It also took several hours for National Guardsmen to be equipped and given a plan for how to secure the Capitol, Lt Gen Piatt said. The building was overrun by hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump who sought to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
“When people’s lives are on the line, two minutes is too long,” Lt Gen Piatt said. “But we were not positioned to respond to that urgent request. We had to re-prepare so we would send them in prepared for this new mission.”
Lt Gen Piatt’s testimony comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House will step up its investigations into the deadly riots, in which a violent mob overran police, broke into the building and hunted for politicians.
She said on Tuesday that the House “can’t wait any longer” to conduct a comprehensive investigation after Senate Republicans blocked legislation to create an independent commission.
“Whether we have a commission today, tomorrow or the next day over in the Senate, or not, the work of the committees will be very important in what we’re seeking for the American people — the truth,” Ms Pelosi said.
One option under consideration is a select committee on the January 6 attack, a setup that would put majority Democrats in charge. More than three dozen Republicans in the House and seven Senate Republicans wanted to avoid a partisan probe and supported the legislation to create an independent, bipartisan commission outside Congress.
But those numbers were not strong enough to overcome GOP opposition in the Senate, where support from 1O Republicans is needed to pass most bills.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has said he may hold a second vote after the legislation failed to advance last month, but there is no indication that Democrats can win the necessary support from three additional Republicans.
“We can’t wait any longer,” Ms Pelosi said. “We will proceed.”
Meanwhile, most Republicans are making clear that they want to move on from the January 6 attack, brushing aside the many unanswered questions about the insurrection, including how the government and law enforcement missed intelligence leading up to the rioting, and the role of Mr Trump before and during the attack.
The hazards of investigating the attack in the sharply divided Congress were on full display during the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, which was called to examine “unexplained delays and unanswered questions” about the siege.
Several Republicans tried to divert the subject, using their questioning to talk about coronavirus restrictions, the border and Mr Biden’s son Hunter, while others played down the severity of the violence.
Some of the Republicans appeared to defend the rioters, including Wisconsin representative Glenn Grothman, who grilled FBI Director Christopher Wray on whether some of those who broke into the Capitol were innocent.
Arizona representative Paul Gosar repeated his arguments that a Trump supporter who was shot and killed while breaking into the House chamber, Ashli Babbitt, was “executed”.
Democrats shot back that Republicans were trying to obscure the truth.
“This has got to do with the attempts by people to overthrow the government of the United States of America, something that hasn’t happened in well over 100 years,” said Maryland representative Kweisi Mfume. “And it’s not something that we can slough off.”
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