WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's acting defense secretary during the Jan. 6 Capitol riots plans to tell Congress that he was concerned in the days before the insurrection that sending troops to the building would fan fears of a military coup and could cause a repeat of the deadly Kent State shootings, according to a copy of prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press.
Christopher Miller's testimony is aimed at defending the Pentagon's response to the chaos of the day and rebutting broad criticism that military forces were too slow to arrive even as pro-Trump rioters violently breached the building and stormed inside.
He casts himself in his opening statement as a deliberate leader who was determined that the military have only limited involvement, a perspective he says was shaped by criticism of the aggressive response to the civil unrest that roiled American cities months earlier, as well as decades-old episodes that ended in violence.
The Defense Department, he will tell members of the House Oversight Committee today, has “an extremely poor record in supporting domestic law enforcement,” including during civil rights and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in the 1960s and 1970s.
“And some 51 years ago, on May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guard troops fired at demonstrators at Kent State University and killed four American civilians,” Miller will say, adding, “I was committed to avoiding repeating these scenarios.”
He will also deny that Trump, criticized for failing to forcefully condemn the rioters, had any involvement in the Defense Department's response and will say that Trump had even suggested that 10,000 troops might be needed for Jan. 6.
Miller, expected to testify alongside former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and District of Columbia Police Chief Robert Contee III, will be the most senior Defense Department official to participate in congressional hearings on the riots.
The Capitol Police have faced criticism for being badly overmatched, the FBI for failing to share with sufficient urgency intelligence suggesting a possible “war” at the Capitol, and the Defense Department for an hourslong delay in getting support to the complex despite the violent, deadly chaos unfolding on TV.
In his remarks, Miller will defend his resistance to a heavy military response as being shaped in part by public “hysteria” about the possibility of a military coup or concerns that the military might be used to help overturn the election results.
Fearful of amplifying those suspicions – as well as the possibility that a soldier might be provoked into violence in a way that could be perceived as an attack on First Amendment activities – he says he agreed in the days before the insurrection to deploy soldiers only in areas away from the Capitol.