62

An op-ed on Russia Today (which obviously has its biases) claims about Trump's reaction to the Jan 6 events:

The supposed Nazi fascist dictator himself ordered National Guard and police to clear out the protesters who sided with him, and protect the establishment that did not.

I see NBC also briefly mentions that

Trump directed the National Guard to head to the Capitol, he said in a tweet

Is there confirmation that the Guard actually received such an order from Trump himself, or if it was through the chain of command, did this order contain clear indication that it ultimately came from Trump himself?

Basically, is there evidence (besides that tweet) that Trump himself gave such orders to the Guard?

(Just so we don't get repeatedly deleted comments on this and drive the mods to exhaustion: I'm aware Trump also tweeted that his supporters should "go home" on that day. But there's a difference between appealing [his own supporters] for de-escalation and ordering security forces build-up or an actual crackdown. Also, I see AP has a Sep 1 fact check on some previous tweets of Trump regarding other National Guard deployments, some of which AP concluded contained an exaggeration of Trump's role.)

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  • 7
    NB: That's an op-ed in Russia Today making this claim. I'm not saying RT is not a propaganda outlet, but an op-ed in medium x does not necessarily mean that x endorses the view in that op-ed.
    – gerrit
    Jan 8 at 8:23
  • 3
    @gerrit: yes, they do have a disclaimer at the end, although searching for the author (Nebojsa Malic) he's a regular (enough) columnist on RT, e.g. mentioned on the BBC or on DW for previous stories. Actually, RT itself makes it easy enough to read all his pieces rt.com/op-ed/authors/nebojsa-malic (There's at least 40 of them.)
    – Fizz
    Jan 8 at 8:31
  • Voting to close as this is an unresolved issue subject to official investigation. thehill.com/homenews/house/… Jan 8 at 11:42
  • 6
    @PaulJohnson: I'd expect some military leadership to be able to confirm this much (e.g. to the press) without the whole investigation shebang, which is intended to look into failures of Capitol Police etc., not really into Trump's orders (or lack thereof).
    – Fizz
    Jan 9 at 9:27
128

No, Trump did not order the National Guard to mobilize at that time. As The New York Times reported, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller made the ultimate decision to activate the entirety of the district's National Guard, an order that was subsequently approved by Mike Pence, not Trump:

Defense and administration officials said it was Vice President Mike Pence, not President Trump, who approved the order to deploy the D.C. National Guard. It was unclear why the president, who incited his supporters to storm the Capitol and who is still the commander in chief, did not give the order.

The claim that Miller gave the order is borne out by the official timeline of events released by the Department of Defense, which depict a number of conversations between officials between December 31 and the 8:00 PM on January 6. Following a call between McCarthy and the mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser, there were additional meetings in which Miller, the Deputy Mayor, and other high-level officials were present. Neither the Vice President or the President are listed as having been in attendance, but it explicitly states that at 3:00 PM, McCarthy determined that the entirety of the district's National Guard forces would be required, and that Miller gave verbal approval for the full deployment at 3:04 PM. Pence's involvement is not, then, fully supported, but it makes any involvement by Trump quite dubious.

(To clear up some confusion: I intentionally went along with article's choice of the verb "approved" and not "ordered" to describe Pence's involvement. As others have correctly mentioned, the Vice President has no authority over the National Guard; here, by "approved", I'm referring to a non-binding order. Pence giving the deployment the okay would effectively just show that the administration is on board with the decision made by Miller and McCarthy - it wouldn't look good if the Department of Defense deployed the National Guard and the White House disapproved of the order.)

CNN, too, has reported that sources have said that Pence, not Trump, was involved. Public statements supporting this were made by Miller and the House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy:

Public statements by acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and other top officials suggested it was Pence who ultimately approved the decision. Miller's statement Wednesday seems to indicate he did not even speak with Trump, discussing the matter with his deputy instead as sources told CNN the President was reluctant to even denounce the violence being carried out in his name.

. . .

Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sidestepped questions Wednesday night about whether Pence, not Trump, directed the DC National Guard to be activated but suggested the vice president ultimately approved the decision.

Asked by Fox News about reporting that Pence, not the President, approved the activation, McCarthy demurred, but ultimately said: "I know the vice president has been in constant contact with us and also along with security inside the Capitol, I communicated with the vice president early on. It was in regards to getting the National Guard there. He said he will call right now."

I should note that, like the DoD's timeline, Miller's statement explicitly mentioned the Vice President and other key officials, but did not refer to the President at all.

However, Miller has since submitted testimony (on May 12) to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in which he states that he doesn't recall the President being on any of the calls on January 6 in which plans (and presumably decisions) for the National Guard's response were made. Moreover, he says that the President had no part in the decisions made that day by the DoD at all:

I also want to address questions that have been raised in regard to the President’s involvement in the response. He had none with respect to the Department of Defense efforts on January 6.

. . .

My recollection is that White House personnel, including White House counsel and the Chief of Staff, but not the President, participated in some of the multi-agency calls on January 6 convened to organize and coordinate the response to the events at the Capitol after the mob entered the Capitol building. I do not recall any specific remarks they made, if any, during those calls. Those calls are reflected in the various timelines available to you.

This appears to be referencing that DoD timeline, and it does explicitly state that he does not recall Trump ever being involved in the decisions of that afternoon.


The Wednesday decision by Ryan McCarthy and Miller to mobilize the entirety of the district's National Guard contingent was made after an earlier deployment of 350 members of the National Guard on Monday following repeated requests by Bowser - requests that were then approved by the Pentagon. Politico notes that

Miller spoke with Trump multiple times this week about the mayor’s Guard request, said DoD Chief of Staff Kash Patel. During those conversations, Trump conveyed that Miller should take "any necessary steps to support civilian law enforcement requests in securing the Capitol and federal buildings."

These, too, are supported by the DoD's timeline. It's not clear whether Trump ever explicitly mentioned the National Guard, but any rate, the conversations between Miller and Trump seem to have occurred prior to the events of January 6 and the storming of the Capitol.


Yes, the White House has claimed that Trump gave the order, as per a tweet by White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany:

At President @realDonaldTrump’s direction, the National Guard is on the way along with other federal protective services.

We reiterate President Trump’s call against violence and to remain peaceful.

In addition, in a video released on January 7, Trump himself claimed

I immediately deployed the National Guard

However, Trump's claim is dubious at best:

  1. It contradicts the unnamed sources cited by The New York Times and CNN, as well as public statements by Miller and (the more oblique one) Minority Leader McCarthy.
  2. The Department of Defense's timeline, which explicitly mentions conversations with Trump involving the National Guard earlier in the week, does not mention him in connection with any relevant meetings on Wednesday - rather odd, if Trump had been the one to give the order.

The White House is the only government source I'm aware of claiming that Trump gave the command, and many others involved have said otherwise.

3
  • 1
    Generic cleanup: Comments moved to chat.
    – fredsbend
    Jan 11 at 16:59
  • 1
    The link to the timeline of events is currently broken
    – Cruncher
    Jan 12 at 14:59
  • 1
    @Cruncher Thanks for letting me know - I've taken a page from Fizz's book and used the Wayback Machine version for now.
    – HDE 226868
    Jan 15 at 14:40
14

I see that the Pentagon has released a detailed timeline of the events on their side now. (Alas the pdf is not OCR'd, so I can't easily quote too much from it.) The most relevant points on Jan 6 seem to be

  • 13:05 "A/SD receives open source reports of demonstrator movements to U.S. Capitol"
  • 13:34 DC Mayor (Bowser) requests troops in phone call with SECARMY.
  • 13:49 Police Capitol chief Sund does the same in phone call with DCNG commander General Walker
  • 14:22 Another phone call between SECARMY and DC leadership (mayor etc.) in which additional support is requested
  • 14:30 A/SD, CJCS and SECARMY (start to) discuss the above requests.
  • 15:00 A/SD decides that all available forces of DCNG should reinforce the DC MPD and USCP and SECARMY gives some preliminary orders to the DCNG to prepare for this.
  • 15:04 A/SD "with advice from CJCS, DoD GC, the Chief of National Guard Bureau (CNGB), SECARMY and the Chief of Staff of the Army, provides verbal approval of the full activation of DCNG (1100 [troops] in total) in support of the MPD". SECARMY McCarthy then conveys this directive to the DCNG.
  • 15:19 SECARMY explains in a phone call to Schumer and Pelosi that he gave the above approval on Bowser's request.
  • 16:10 SECARMY personally arrives at MPD HQ.
  • 16:18 A/SD, CJCS, SECARMY and CNGB discuss sending additional forces from nearby states. A/SD gives verbal approval for such preparations to begin.
  • 16:32 A/SD "provides verbal authorization to re-mission DCNG to conduct perimeter and clearance operations in support of USCP".
  • 16:40 SECARMY in phone call with the governor of Maryland to send Maryland NG to DC next day
  • 17:02 First contingent of DCNG (154 troops) depart their DC Armory. They arrive at 17:40 at the Capitol where they "swear in with USCP, and begin support operations".
  • 17:45 A/SD signs formal authorization for out-of-state NG "to muster and gives voice approval of deployment [their] in support of USCP".
  • 19:36 A/SD provides "vocal approval to lease fences in support of the USCP".

It's unclear if anyone else was informed, e.g. when A/SD may have contacted Trump (or even Pence) to inform them, but they're not mentioned in that timeline. And these other figures were almost certainly not involved in making decisions, or it would be a big oversight for the DoD to omit mentioning this.

Glossary:

  • A/SD = Acting Secretary of Defense, Christopher C. Miller
  • CJCS = Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • CNGB = Chief of the National Guard Bureau
  • DCNG = D.C National Guard
  • DoD GC = Department of Defense General Counsel
  • MPD = Metro Police Department
  • NG = National Guard
  • SECARMY = Secretary of the Army
  • USCP = U.S. Capitol Police

That (Jan 8) document was apparently re-released on Jan 11 in a slightly modified form (for starters, the new pdf is OCR'd, but it also lacks some logos and the signature from the older version). On a quick look, there don't seem to be any substantive changes in the actual timeline provided in the later version.


Since some may be wondering about this aspect...

Supervision and control of D.C. National Guard was delegated by the president to the defense secretary pursuant to Executive Order 10030, 26 January 1949 [...] The Army secretary was directed to act in all matters pertaining to the ground component, and the Air Force secretary was directed to act in all matters pertaining to the air component.

5
  • Your link to the detailed timeline is currently broken
    – Cruncher
    Jan 12 at 14:57
  • 1
    @Cruncher: apparently they've moved it or removed it. I'm not sure if that's a retraction... For now I've replaced the link with one on web archive.
    – Fizz
    Jan 15 at 14:14
  • 1
    @Cruncher: apparently it was just moved to media.defense.gov/2021/Jan/11/2002563151/-1/-1/0/… although they may have made some changes... I haven't checked closely. I see the logo was removed and it's now an OCR'd document.
    – Fizz
    Jan 15 at 14:48
  • 1
    Interesting. At the bottom of the new doc it says "Note: This document has been updated to more appropriately reflect the characterization of events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.". I'd like to go through point by point to get a diff to see what information required updating
    – Cruncher
    Jan 15 at 15:06
  • 1
    @Cruncher: yea I saw the note, but I can't find any real change...
    – Fizz
    Jan 15 at 15:08
-7

Unknown

First, to clear up some misinformation,

The Vice President cannot activate the National Guard.

To repeat, THE VICE PRESIDENT CANNOT ACTIVATE THE NATIONAL GUARD.

Any source stating otherwise is either ignorant or applying artistic license in the reporting. (Frankly, I think it's a signficant mark against the credibility of anyone reporting this, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.)

The National Guard can only be activated by the State Governor (not applicable for D.C.), by the President, or by the Secretary of Defense, who reports directly to the President.

Support of operations or missions undertaken by the member’s unit at the request of the President or Secretary of Defense.

Title 32 U.S.C. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/32/502

The Vice President has no more authority over the Armed Forces than the Secretary of Education.

Thus, either President Trump or his recently appointed Acting Secretary of Defense Miller activated the National Guard. (Or someone conducted a illegal takeover of the military, but that would be an even bigger headline than the riot itself, and there's little reason to thing that it wasn't Trump or Miller plus media narrative.)

So view the statements ahead with that correction in mind.

Reports

Against

The NYTimes said that Trump's VP Mike Pence approved the order:

Defense and administration officials said it was Vice President Mike Pence, not President Trump, who approved the order to deploy the D.C. National Guard.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/06/us/politics/national-guard-capitol-army.html

Though it's unclear what statements -- public or private -- they derived this conclusion from.

The Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller did not mention Trump when speaking about his decision:

Chairman Milley and I just spoke separately with the Vice President and with Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Senator Schumer and Representative Hoyer about the situation at the U.S. Capitol. We have fully activated the D.C. National Guard to assist federal and local law enforcement as they work to peacefully address the situation.

https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/06/politics/pence-national-guard/index.html

It's unclear whether Secretary Miller's "we" is himself and the President, or a generous "we" towards the Congressional leaders and the VP (despite them not have any actual decision-making power but perhaps influencing the decision).

For

The Secretary Miller's Chief of Staff said that the President and the the Sec Def talked "multiple times this week about the request for National Guard personnel in DC" and the

During these conversations the President conveyed to the Acting Secretary that he should take any necessary steps to support civilian law enforcement requests in securing the Capitol and federal buildings

NYT likewise reported:

The president had also expressed interest beforehand in calling in the National Guard to hold off anti-Trump counterprotesters

https://archive.vn/I0Q8D

At 3:36PM EST, White House Press Sectary said Trump gave an order for the National Guard and others to secure the Capitol:

At President @realDonaldTrump ’s direction, the National Guard is on the way along with other federal protective services.

We reiterate President Trump’s call against violence and to remain peaceful.

https://twitter.com/presssec/status/1346918582832168964

The Press Secretary's announcement of Trump's order was two hours prior to the National Guard's arrival at 5:40PM according to the timeline from the Dept of Defense.

The following day, Trump said the same:

I immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENlL-Uru-cM&t=37

Unfortunately, it's not clear what other federal law enforcement agencies were involved (e.g. perhaps the Park Police that were deployed in D.C. in Summer 2020). AFAIK any other agencies would not be under control of Secretary Miller, and so would have to have been ordered by Trump or one of his other Secretaries.

Neutral

An anonymous CNN source said Trump "initially resisted" deploying the National Guard, and Pence helped get them deployed faster. However, it's unclear whether Trump or Miller make the actual order.

Trump, who has proven over the past year to be eager to deploy the National Guard when violence breaks out, initially resisted doing so on Capitol Hill Wednesday as a mob of his supporters breached the building, per a source familiar. Pence played a key role in coordinating with the Pentagon about deploying them, and urged them to move faster than they were.

https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/06/politics/pence-national-guard/index.html

Conclusion

There's reason to doubt the White House's claim that President Trump deployed the National Guard. However, and the contrary information is either indirect or secondhand, the inexact reporting about who actually did issue the order doesn't help.

If it wasn't Trump who directly ordered the troop deployment, it was his Acting Secretary of Defense, Christopher Miller.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tim
    Jan 12 at 19:01
  • Comments are meant to help improve an answer (see also How do comments work?). imho the deleted comment thread was argumentative and not helpful in improving the answer. If you disagree, please feel free to edit the relevant info into your answer.
    – tim
    Jan 17 at 8:12
  • 1
    The basic argument in part of this answer is that "the rules say only the president can activate the National Guard" therefore that is what happened. But this is the Trump presidency and rules are not very relevant to what actually happened. we need evidence about what happened, not what should have happened. Especially since there is conflicting evidence that Trump didn't do what his press people claimed he did.
    – matt_black
    Jan 19 at 11:18
  • @matt_black, are you suggesting that Pence unlawfully seized control of the National Guard -- an organization which in which he has no position of command -- and Pence's direct violation of USC is part of a pattern of illegal behavior? And he did this despite in other cases stating his unwillingness to cross lines in exercising his authority? Feb 15 at 23:12
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    @PaulDraper I'm not accusing Pence of anything. I'm merely pointing out that you can't use the formal rules to decide what actually happened, especially when the president is erratic and unconcerned (as he appeared to be in his call with McCarthy in the middle of the riot) with doing the right thing to protect the house.
    – matt_black
    Feb 16 at 0:28

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