Former DC Guard commander demands Pentagon inspector general retract Jan. 6 report
WASHINGTON — The former commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard is demanding the retraction of an inspector general report that says Army leaders had to tell him twice to send troops to the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, saying Thursday that the allegation is false and must be corrected.
William Walker, now retired from the military and serving at the Capitol as House sergeant-at-arms, said in an interview that he never received a call from Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy at 4:35 p.m., as alleged in a report by the Defense Department's acting inspector general, Sean O'Donnell. Walker, repeating comments he made during sworn Senate testimony in March, said that he received authorization to deploy troops at 5:08 p.m. and immediately dispatched those forces, already loaded onto several buses to depart the D.C. Armory.
"Every minute mattered. You have to understand: These are my friends here," Walker said, referring to his close relationship with former Capitol Police chief Steven Sund, who was forced to resign following the attack, and other law enforcement officials. He called the report "incomplete," "inaccurate" and "sloppy work."
Walker's objection to the published details in the report injects fresh tension into the ongoing political turmoil and finger-pointing stemming from the assault, in which supporters of President Donald Trump smashed their way into Congress in a violent attempt to halt certification of the electoral college count affirming his defeat. The Capitol was breached at 1:50 p.m., but National Guard members were not sworn in to assist police until 5:40 p.m., after senior Army officials settled on a plan.
O'Donnell's office interviewed 44 witnesses, including Walker, McCarthy and dozens of other Pentagon and police officials. Investigators concluded that the military's response was "reasonable in light of the circumstances," and that McCarthy and other Pentagon officials were acting within their purview in withholding military assistance until they could make better sense of the chaos.
Megan Reed, a spokeswoman for the inspector general's office, said that each witness had "an opportunity to provide information they believed was relevant to our review."
"Our independent and impartial report presents Maj. Gen. Walker's statements to us and his testimony to Congress, as well as information and statements provided by other witnesses," Reed said.
The inspector general's office did not respond to specific questions, including how it decided what to include in the report. As a matter of practice, the office does not detail its oversight processes, Reed said.
The report details frustrations between Walker, who wanted to help police officials immediately as thousands of people descended on the Capitol, and senior leaders on the Army staff concerned about potential consequences to and blowback from sending the military.
Walker contends that restrictions placed on him by McCarthy and Trump's acting defense secretary, Christopher Miller, prevented him from sending Guard members to assist sooner. He wanted to do so, he said, and had long-term relations with police officials in Washington that he could have relied on that day.
Walker, who spent decades as an investigator for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said the inspector general's office did not corroborate simple information and based its conclusions on errors of fact.
The question of when Walker was first ordered to send the National Guard to the Capitol came up during his testimony to the Senate earlier this year.
A top Pentagon official who testified alongside him, Robert Salesses, told senators that the Pentagon initially told the District Guard it could move forward at 4:32 p.m. on Jan. 6.
But Salesses, a Trump administration official, then walked back his testimony under questioning by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who pointed out that it conflicted with Walker's statement indicating the order came at 5:08 p.m. Salesses then corrected himself.
"In fairness to General Walker, too, that's when the [acting] secretary of defense made the decision — at 4:32," Salesses said. "As General Walker has pointed out, because I've seen all the timelines, he was not told that until 5:08."
But in June, the director of the Army staff, Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, contradicted Walker's testimony from months prior, telling House lawmakers that McCarthy notified Walker at 4:35 p.m. that Walker had approval for his troops to depart the D.C. Armory. The inspector general's report, citing an anonymous Army official, accepts that timeline and contains no response from Walker.
McCarthy, through a spokesperson, declined to comment.
The timing matters, Walker said, because he thinks delay within the Pentagon prevented his forces from a speedier arrival — and that such a mistake could be repeated without proper examination.
"Why didn't the National Guard launch immediately?" Walker asked. "We had people on the street, and my plan was just to remission them, abandon the traffic control points, abandon the Metro stations, and get to the Capitol. I had the civil disturbance gear in the vehicles."
Mandy Smithberger, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight, said it is rare for an inspector general to retract or amend a report. But it does happen, she said, citing the Pentagon inspector general's decision in 2015 to withdraw a clean audit that the Marine Corps had received two years earlier.
Smithberger said inspectors general usually run sensitive details that will be published in a report by the parties involved to verify they are true.
"I think they need to take any reasonable step that they can to make sure they have their facts straight," she said.