Four months after a violent mob of far-right extremists attacked the U.S. Capitol Building in the hope of stopping Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory, many Americans continue to ask: Why was this allowed to happen — and why weren't the extremists prevented from entering the Capitol? Just Security reporters Kate Brannen and Ryan Goodman, in an article published on May 11, offer a timeline of U.S. Department of Defense actions on and before January 6. The Just Security timeline is based, in part, on the DoD timeline released on January 8.
"In advance of Wednesday's congressional hearing on 'unexplained delays and unanswered questions' pertaining to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol," Brannen and Goodman write, "we are revisiting the day's events, focusing closely on the Defense Department's actions. Central to this exercise is the timeline DoD released on January 8, which was intended to 'memorialize the planning and execution efforts' taken by the Pentagon in response to the violence unfolding three miles away."
Brannen, Just Security's editorial director, and Goodman (a U.S. Department of Defense alumni) note that "one of the consequential conversations not included by DoD in its public timeline took place just after rioters had penetrated the scaffolding around the Capitol and were making their way into the Building."
According to the Just Security reporters, "During the phone call, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund pleaded with senior Army leaders for help. According to the testimony of at least three people on the call, Army leaders did not respond to those pleas with immediate support or affirmation. Instead, they raised concerns about how it would look to have members of the National Guard on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, as well as concerns that the presence of the Guard could inflame the rioters."
Brannen and Goodman also note the concerns of Maj. Gen. William Walker, commander of the D.C. National Guard — who, they point out, "specifically told Congress that he didn't receive approval to deploy his troops until three hours and 19 minutes after he first shared Sund's frantic request for backup with the Army."
"Questions remain about why Defense Department leaders didn't move faster — why they constrained Walker's authorities in the days leading up to January 6, why they weren't in better communication with the people who needed to speak with them that day, and why they weren't more forthcoming about the conversations they had and the decisions they made," Brannen and Goodman explain. "Real mistakes were made, and they are worth congressional and public scrutiny."
The timeline that Brannen and Goodman provide starts on December 31, 2020 and ends on January 7, 2021. Before the January 6 attack, officials in Washington, D.C. feared the possibility of violence — and the timeline notes that on New Year's Eve, Democratic Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Christopher Rodriguez, the D.C. director of Homeland Security and the Emergency Management Agency, delivered a "written request for D.C. National Guard support to D.C. Metro Police Department (MPD) and Fire and Emergency Service." And on New Year's Day, Walker — according to his testimony — sent "a letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy requesting approval for the mayor's request."
Then, on January 2, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller discussed Bowser's request with Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. And on January 4, according to Brannen and Goodman, the Defense Department confirmed "with U.S. Capitol Police that there" was "no request for DoD support."
On January 5, according to the timeline, Bowser addressed her security concerns in a letter to then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen — and it was also on January 5 that the FBI field office in Norfolk issued a warning that extremists were planning to visit Washington, D.C. and commit acts of violence the following day.
The timeline ends with elaborate details of the events of January 6-7, from then-President Donald Trump's Stop the Steal Rally and the Capitol assault to then-Vice President Mike Pence certifying Biden as U.S. president-elect.