On Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hold a hearing to examine the events of Jan. 6 chaired by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). In a statement, the committee said “this hearing will focus in particular on the Trump Administration’s preparations in advance of January 6 and response to the attacks,” and that it
will also consider the response of federal and local law enforcement agencies to the attack, and the need to establish a bipartisan, ‘9/11-style’ commission, so that Congress and the American people can fully understand the causes and circumstances that led to the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
The witnesses include:
- Christopher Miller, former acting secretary of defense;
- Jeffrey Rosen, former acting attorney general; and
- Robert Contee III, chief of the Metropolitan Police Department
The hearing is the first to include former high-ranking government officials who were directly involved in the events other than FBI Director Christopher Wray, who has already testified. The hearing comes after the chairs of six House committees requested information from 16 agencies in late March. It also comes as a proposal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to create a National Commission on Jan. 6 remains under consideration, though is apparently languishing.
There is a great deal that is still unknown about the events of Jan. 6, and discrepancies in key accounts that have been made public. In particular, little is known about the actions of President Donald Trump in the crucial hours between his rally at the Ellipse, where he encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol, and hours later, when he finally called on them to stand down. There are key questions about attempts to push the Justice Department to take action on false voter fraud claims. And, there are inconsistencies and questionable omissions in the Pentagon’s public timeline that need to be addressed.
Below are key questions Congress should ask Rosen and Miller about the events of Jan. 6 and its immediate aftermath.
For Former Acting Defense Secretary Miller:
1. In prepared remarks on Jan. 7, President Trump said, “I immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders.” Is that true?
Background: Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also told Sean Hannity that Trump acted quickly to deploy the National Guard on Jan. 6 and that Miller could back up that account.
2. Can you state on what occasions you or your office spoke to Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, or Meadows about the events of Jan. 6, from that day until you left office? How would you characterize those conversations?
Background: Miller’s chief of staff Kash Patel has said, “I was talking to [White House chief of staff, Mark] Meadows, nonstop that day.”
3. You apparently told a reporter that you did not try to contact Trump on Jan. 6; however, the reporter quoted another senior defense official who said, “They couldn’t get through. They tried to call him.” Under oath now, did you or your office try to contact President Trump on Jan. 6? If so, what came of those efforts?
4. In a video interview, you said to a reporter, “Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and tried to overrun the Capitol, without the president’s speech? I think it’s pretty much definitive that wouldn’t have happened.” “It seems cause-and-effect,” you said. Since those statements, have you been in touch with former President Trump, or anyone directly associated with him about your remarks? What was their response?
5. In a video interview, you sought to downplay concerns about the timeframe for the response at the Capitol. You said “It comes back to understanding how the military works – this isn’t a video game, it’s not ‘Halo,’ it’s not ‘Black Ops Call of Duty,'” suggesting expectations about the speed of response were not reasonable. Since those comments, do you continue to believe that the response that day was as fast as it could have been?
6. How do you contend with D.C. Guard Commander William Walker’s testimony that he had a Quick Reaction Force on standby but was specifically not given the authority to deploy it?
7. How do you contend with Major General Walker’s testimony in which he said, “It’s a long standing process, but it can work in minutes. So for example, during the first week of June, the secretary of the Army was with me. I watched him call the Secretary of Defense [Esper] and consult with the Attorney General and respond back to me with an approval within minutes”?
8. Specifically, what obstacles prevented DOD from responding more quickly to the attack on the Capitol? Were there bureaucratic steps that could be streamlined? Could individuals in the chain of command have been more responsive? Were any orders or directives issued that delayed response?
9. What explains the 36-minute gap between the time you conveyed final authorization to the Army for deployment of the National Guard and the Army’s leadership informing Walker of the approval?
Background: In a Senate hearing, senior Pentagon official Robert Salesses acknowledged the failure in an exchange with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).
BLUNT: –How’s that possible, Mr. Salesses–do you think that the decision, in the moment we were in, was made at 4:32, and the person that had to be told wasn’t told for more than half an hour after the decision was made?
SALESSES: Senator, I think that’s–that’s an issue. There was decisions that were being made. There was communications that needed to take place. And then there was actions that had to be taken. All of that was happening at simultaneous times by different individuals. And I think that part of the challenge is that some of the delayed communications probably put some of the challenges that we had that day.
BLUNT: Well I would think so. If you have to have the communication before General Walker and the National Guard can take the action and the communication doesn’t occur for over half an hour, that’s a significant problem for the future if we don’t figure out how the decision, the communication and the action all happen as nearly to the same time as they possibly can.
SALESSES: I agree, Senator.
10. You have been quoted as saying that Trump told you you would need 10,000 troops at the Capitol on January 6th. Why did he say this? How did you respond?
11. Who had the authority to deploy the D.C. National Guard Quick Reaction Force? Just yourself or did Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy also have the authority to do so?
12. Why did neither you nor Secretary McCarthy speak to Maj. Gen Walker that day? Was that a dereliction of leadership?
Background: Walker testified, “I never talked to secretary of defense Miller and I didn’t talk to the secretary of the Army.”
13. Would it have been possible to remission the D.C. Guard members on traffic duty with Metropolitan Police Department to send the Guard to the Capitol when the MPD responded to urgent calls for help from U.S. Capitol Police? Did you ever receive a request for the D.C. Guard to do this?
14. On Jan. 8, during your tenure, the Department of Defense published a timeline of events leading up to and including January 6, which was later referred to by the Department of Defense in congressional testimony. Why did the Department omit significant entries in the Timeline including:
- Any communications with your office and the White House;
- Major General Walker’s initial call to Army leaders conveying Sund’s plea for help;
- Vice President Pence’s urgent call to you demanding deployment to secure the Capitol (which as reportedly included in an internal DoD timeline);
- Army leaders rejecting Sund’s plea for help on the 2:22pm call
More: The DoD timeline noted one call between Walker and Sund on Jan. 6 at 1:49 p.m., but the AP reported that Sund “frantically called Walker again and asked for at least 200 guard members ‘and to send more if they are available’.” Why was this information left off the publicly released timeline?
15. On January 8, during your tenure, the Department of Defense published a timeline of events leading up to and including January 6, which was later referred to by the Department of Defense in written congressional testimony. The timeline states that Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy was on a significant conference call at 2:22 p.m. on Jan. 6. But McCarthy subsequently told the Washington Post he was not on the call. In his testimony under oath, D.C. National Guard Commander Walker told the Senate, “We dialed in trying to get the Secretary of the Army on the call but he wasn’t available.”
Is the DoD timeline accurate? Was there a subsequent conversation in which McCarthy did not participate?
16. Why did the Army initially falsely deny that Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn participated in the 2:22pm call with D.C. leadership and U.S. Capitol Police? Was it a bungled approach to fears of political fallout should his participation become public?
Background: The brother of Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn was on the call, although his participation in this key meeting was initially strongly and repeatedly denied by the Army for several days. “HE WAS NOT IN ANY OF THE MEETINGS!” an Army official said, for example, in an email to The Post. The Army and Flynn later admitted he was on the call.
17. Did Maj. Gen. Timothy Gowen, the adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, get “rebuffed” by the Pentagon. “The general . . . kept running it up the flagpole, and we don’t have authorization,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has said.
18. What steps were taken to preserve documents related to the events of Jan. 6? If no steps were taken, why not?
19. In the aftermath of the attack, did anyone at the White House or DOD attempt to scope or limit the degree to which DOD or DOD personnel cooperated with congressional investigations into the Jan. 6 attacks?
20. In the past year, we have seen menacing and/or violent protests at the U.S. Capitol, as well as state capitols and government buildings (e.g., Michigan). Is the Department of Defense adequately prepared to respond to threats beyond the U.S. Capitol?
21. According to the AP, an internal DoD timeline states that Vice President Mike Pence urgently called you at 4:08 p.m. “Pence said the Capitol was not secure and he asked military leaders for a deadline for securing the building,” according to the AP. “Clear the Capitol,” Pence demanded. Was it unusual for you to receive any such order (or however you would like to characterize it) from the vice president who is not in the chain of command? Why were you receiving such communications from the vice president but not from the president?
Background: On Jan. 6, Miller also released a statement saying, “”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.” Reporters noted that absent from the list of individuals was Trump.
For former Acting Attorney General Rosen:
1. Can you state on what occasions you spoke to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, or Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the events of Jan. 6, from that day until you left office? How would you characterize those conversations?
2. What steps were taken to preserve documents related to the Jan. 6 events, including documents in the custody of DOJ, other agencies, or the White House? If no steps were taken, why not?
3. In the aftermath of the attack, did anyone at the White House or DOJ attempt to scope or limit the degree to which DOJ personnel cooperated with congressional investigations into the Jan. 6 attacks?
4. It has been reported that a Justice Department lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, devised a plan with former President Trump to oust you from your position as acting attorney general and to put pressure on Georgia state lawmakers to overturn that state’s election results. Other Justice department lawyers apparently made a pact to resign in a bid to protect your job, and reportedly you met with Trump and Clark in the White House, where the president pressed you to appoint special counsels to look into false voter fraud claims. What can you tell us about these conversations, and about the president’s intentions?
5. When you reminded President Trump that the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, what did he say?
6. You were reportedly concerned that Clark, the Justice Department lawyer, believed false conspiracy theories about the election, and that he was acting on that information. What prompted those concerns?
7. It was also reported that when Trump was considering replacing you in order to pursue false claims of voter fraud, that he wanted the Justice Department to ask the Supreme Court to invalidate Biden’s victory. Can you characterize the nature of that request, and the reasoning and justification the president, Clark, or others involved in the discussion used?
8. Were you aware that former interim U.S. attorney Michael Sherwin was at the Ellipse and walked alongside rally participants to the Capitol on Jan. 6th? If so, when did you become aware? Was he acting within the scope of his authority?
Editor’s Note: You can read more about the Defense Department’s public timeline and what it appears to have omitted here.