Full disclosure: The author served as a senior professional staff member on the January 6th Committee. In that capacity, he worked with former Rep. Liz Cheney, whom he has known for more than two decades and continues to advise. In addition, the author was a principal drafter of the committee’s final report.

Former President Donald Trump and his loyalists have long claimed that he “ordered” the National Guard to be ready for deployment on Jan. 6, 2021. “As many as 10,000 National Guard troops were told to be on the ready by the secretary of defense,” Mark Meadows, Trump’s White House Chief of Staff, claimed during a Fox News interview just one month after the attack. “That was a direct order from President Trump,” Meadows said. The implication was clear: President Trump did not deserve blame for the violence that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol because he wanted the National Guard to keep the peace.

There’s just one problem: The claim is not true.

The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol thoroughly investigated this issue — questioning multiple witnesses about it and reviewing countless documents. The committee could not find any evidence to support Meadows’ claim. Indeed, Trump’s Acting Secretary of Defense at the time, Chris Miller, directly refuted it in his testimony under oath– explaining that the president did not issue any such order.

In its final report, the committee summarized the testimony of witnesses who claimed that Trump had floated the idea of deploying 10,000 National Guardsmen — mainly to protect him and his supporters as they marched together to the U.S. Capitol. While Trump wanted to “walk with the people,” he did not end up doing so. And, as the committee explained in the executive summary to its final report, the investigation uncovered “no evidence” that “President Trump gave an order to have 10,000 troops ready for January 6th.”

More than one year after the committee disbanded, there is still no reason to think Trump ordered the National Guard to be ready on Jan. 6, 2021.

Nonetheless, on Mar. 8, Congressman Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) and The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway tried to resuscitate the claim. In a hyperbolic piece, Hemingway alleges that: “Former Rep. Liz Cheney’s January 6 Committee suppressed evidence that President Donald Trump pushed for 10,000 National Guard troops to protect the nation’s capital, a previously hidden transcript obtained by The Federalist shows.” Loudermilk mimicked this language in his own press release.

Loudermilk released the transcript in question, which is from Anthony Ornato’s Jan. 2022 interview with the January 6th Committee. Ornato was the Secret Service agent in charge of Trump’s protective detail before he was appointed Trump’s White House deputy chief of staff for operations. That is, Ornato went from being a career Secret Service agent to one of Trump’s political appointees. (The January 6h Committee noted in the executive summary to its final report that it “found multiple parts of Ornato’s testimony questionable.”)

Loudermilk and Hemingway specifically focus on Ornato’s testimony concerning a phone call between White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser prior to Jan. 6, 2021. Ornato testified that he overheard Meadows “checking in with the Mayor” to see if she needed any more assistance from the National Guard, because “the President threw out a number of 10,000.” Loudermilk and Hemingway claim that Ornato’s testimony is a smoking gun, proving that the January 6th Committee covered up key evidence.

As with so many other false conspiracy theories, this tale falls apart after just a cursory review of the evidence. Here are seven key reasons why.

First, there was no conspiracy to “suppress” Ornato’s Jan. 2022 transcript. Instead, the Secret Service made Ornato available to the committee with the understanding that the transcript of his interview would not be released without the agency’s consent.

Just six pages into the transcript of Ornato’s Jan. 2022 interview, Secret Service Chief Counsel Thomas Huse explained that the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security “have made available to the committee … information and records that would not be publicly released.” Huse added that the “transcript [of Ornato’s testimony] and any attachments are protected from further dissemination to the same extent as the documents and information that they are based on.” Huse added that the committee should “consult with the Secret Service and the Department [DHS] prior to any public release or disclosure of that information.”

The January 6th Committee made the terms of its agreement with the Secret Service and DHS known in a publicly released letter dated Dec. 30, 2022. The committee explained that it had agreed “to maintain the confidentiality of any of these transcripts and related security information” and that it was providing its transcripts of interviews with Secret Service personnel to DHS for “for appropriate review, timely return, and designation of instructions for proper handling by the Archives.” The committee also noted in the letter that it was releasing the transcript of Ornato’s Nov. 2022 interview (with some redactions), because he “was not functioning as a Secret Service Agent on January 6th.” (More on that transcript in a moment.)

In her piece for The Federalist, Hemingway did not inform readers of the agreement between the Secret Service and the January 6th Committee – even though it was specifically addressed in the transcript she erroneously claims was “suppressed” and clearly set forth in the committee’s public letter. Instead, she falsely led readers to believe something sinister was afoot. In addition, Loudermilk certainly knows of the agreement between the January 6th Committee and the DHS/Secret Service. In a “report” released on Monday, Loudermilk criticized DHS for taking too long to review transcripts of the Secret Service employees’ testimony.

Second, a version of the supposedly key testimony that Loudermilk and Hemingway claim was “withheld” and “suppressed” has been publicly available for more than a year – in the transcript of Ornato’s Nov. 29, 2022 interview with the committee.

As explained above, Loudermilk and Hemingway make a big deal out of Ornato’s Jan. 2022 testimony concerning a phone call he says he overheard between White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. They argue that Ornato’s testimony shows Trump really did offer to deploy the National Guard – and that’s why the committee supposedly covered it up. However, Loudermilk and Hemingway ignored or somehow missed the fact that Ornato offered much of the same testimony in the publicly available transcript of his Nov. 29, 2022 testimony.

In his Jan. 2022 interview with the committee, Ornato testified (p. 81) that he overheard Meadows on the phone with Bowser on either January 4 or 5, 2021. An investigator asked Ornato: “I just want to be clear that the Mayor Bowser’s response to the — how would you describe it?  Was it an offer of National Guard, or an inquiry about whether she needed additional National Guard?” Ornato responded (p. 83): “From what I remember, it was the Chief just checking in with the Mayor, are you all set?  Do you have everything you need type of thing?  We can book to do the — if you need more — I know, I think the request was, like I said, 350 or so.  But if you need more, the President threw out a number of 10,000.  I just heard the Chief’s conversation, but that’s what it sounded to be.  I just had heard his side obviously.”

During his Nov. 2022 interview, Ornato recounted the same phone call between Meadows and Bowser. Ornato testified (pp. 61-62, emphasis added):

…I think we talked last time about the National Guard and what I recall on that. And that was, the Chief of Staff [Meadows] had a phone call with the D.C. Mayor, and was talking to her about this. And I believe from what I recall is that the D.C. Mayor had asked for approximately 300 or so National Guard to help with traffic posts in D.C., and I was relaying that information to Robert Engel there. That was my recollection on the D.C. National Guard.

…But I remember Mr. Meadows have the conversation with the D.C. Mayor because I happened to walk into his office, and he waved me in. And he was on the phone with the D.C. Mayor in offering assistance with the National Guard. And I remember that for – to bring National Guard, or have them on standby. From what I recall, it was because of the large amounts of numbers that they thought they were going to [sic] bringing in, or that was coming into D.C., and that was the concern.”

Loudermilk falsely alleges that the January 6th Committee hid the transcript of Ornato’s Jan. 2022 testimony because it shows that Meadows did “offer” the National Guard’s assistance to Mayor Bowser.

However, Ornato made this same claim in the publicly available transcript of his Nov. 2022 testimony – specifically claiming that Meadows was “offering assistance” from the National Guard. Ornato did not use the 10,000 figure in his Nov. 2022 testimony, but otherwise it is the same testimony.

Third, in his Jan. 2022 testimony, Ornato said that Meadows offered the National Guard’s assistance to Mayor Bowser because of concerns about violence “out on the mall area or at the event” but “not anywhere near the Capitol.”

The relevant exchange can be found on p. 78 of the transcript. Ornato did not claim that Meadows offered the National Guard’s assistance to protect the U.S. Capitol. Instead, he said there was a “concern of anti and pro groups clashing elsewhere.” It appears that the “event” he was referring to was Trump’s rally at the Ellipse just south of the White House.

Neither Loudermilk, nor Hemingway mentioned this part of Ornato’s answer. Obviously, Ornato’s testimony is inconsistent with any claim that Trump wanted the National Guard to protect the U.S. Capitol.

Fourth, Ornato testified in Jan. 2022 that he was not aware of any “order” to deploy the National Guard on Jan. 6, 2021. Both Loudermilk and Hemingway ignored or otherwise failed to mention this part of Ornato’s testimony, which is entirely consistent with the January 6th Committee’s finding.

During questioning from the committee’s investigators in Jan. 2022, Ornato agreed that he thought Jan. 6, 2021 was just going to be an “ordinary day.”

He was then asked (p. 92): “And you were not aware if there was any order of deployment of troops, 10,000 troops by the White House on that morning?”

Ornato replied: “No.”

That is, he was not aware of any order by President Trump to deploy 10,000 National Guardsmen – which is exactly what the committee found.

Ornato agreed (p. 83) with an investigator that this “seem[ed] to end this idea of this number that you said was thrown out there of 10,000 troops,” as no steps were taken after that.  Ornato also testified (p. 92) that the only time he heard the 10,000 figure discussed was during the conversation between White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Washington, D.C. Mayor Bowser. And Ornato claimed (p. 78) that Meadows told Bowser merely that Trump was “willing to ask for 10,000” – not that Trump had already ordered or authorized the deployment.

Hemingway and Loudermilk did not highlight this part of Ornato’s testimony for readers. It is easy to see why. Ornato’s testimony corroborates the January 6th Committee’s finding.

Fifth, the January 6th Committee’s final report cited testimony that Trump suggested 10,000 National Guardsmen may be needed to protect him and his supporters – not the U.S. Capitol.

Chapter 6 of the committee’s final report puts Trump’s suggestion that 10,000 National Guardsmen may be needed into proper context. It reads (footnotes omitted, emphasis added):

President Trump wanted to personally accompany his supporters on the march from the Ellipse to the U.S. Capitol. During a January 4th meeting with staffers and event organizer Katrina Pierson, President Trump emphasized his desire to march with his supporters. “Well, I should walk with the people,” Pierson recalled President Trump saying. Though Pierson said that she did not take him “seriously,” she knew that “he would absolutely want to be with the people.”  Pierson pointed out that President Trump “did the drive-by the first time and the flyover the second time” — a reference to the November and December 2020 protests in Washington, DC. During these previous events, President Trump made cameo appearances to fire up his supporters. Now, as January 6th approached, the President again wanted to be there, on the ground, as his supporters marched on the U.S. Capitol.

The President’s advisors tried to talk him out of it. White House Senior Advisor Max Miller “shot it down immediately” because of concerns about the President’s safety. Pierson agreed. But President Trump was persistent, and he floated the idea of having 10,000 National Guardsmen deployed to protect him and his supporters from any supposed threats by leftwing counter-protestors. Miller again rejected the President’s idea, saying that the National Guard was not necessary for the event. Miller testified that there was no further conversation on the matter. After the meeting, Miller texted Pierson, “Just glad we killed the national guard and a procession.”  That is, President Trump briefly considered having the National Guard oversee his procession to the U.S. Capitol. The President did not order the National Guard to protect the U.S. Capitol, or to secure the joint session proceedings.

As the testimony above makes clear, Trump was primarily concerned with ensuring that he and his supporters were protected during their procession to the U.S. Capitol. Trump did not ultimately march to the Capitol himself – nor did he order the deployment of 10,000 National Guardsmen.

Sixth, Trump’s Acting Secretary of Defense, Chris Miller, told the committee that Trump did not issue an order to deploy 10,000 National Guardsmen on Jan. 6.

Appendix 2 of the January 6th Committee’s final report reads:

On January 5th, as demonstrators rallied in support of the President, Acting Secretary Miller received a call from the commander-in-chief. The President asked him if he was watching the events on television. The secretary told him he had caught some of the coverage.

Unprompted, President Trump then said, “You’re going to need 10,000 people” the following day, as in troops. An email sent by Chief of Staff Meadows on January 5th explicitly noted that the DC Guard would be on hand to “protect pro Trump people.” The President and his staff appeared to be aware of the likelihood of violence on the day the election certification of his loss was slated to transpire. This communication from President Trump contemplated that the Guard could support and secure the safety of Trump supporters, not protect the Capitol. At that time, Secretary Miller apparently had no information on what President Trump planned for January 6th.

Acting Secretary Miller thought the 10,000 number was astronomical — “we expected 35,000 protesters . . . [and] even if there were more protesters than expected, [we thought] that local law enforcement could handle it”— but, again, this was “no order from the President,” just “President Trump banter that you all are familiar with.”

Again, far from covering up Trump’s suggestion of 10,000 National Guardsmen, the committee referenced relevant testimony throughout its report. In her piece for The Federalist, Hemingway did not inform her readers of Miller’s testimony.

Seventh, Hemingway asserts that Kash Patel’s testimony would not have been dismissed by the Colorado Supreme Court if the Ornato transcript was publicly available. This does not make sense.

Kash Patel, the former Chief of Staff to Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, testified as defense witness during the proceedings in Colorado to have Trump banned from the ballot. According to the Colorado district court, Patel testified that “on January 3, 2021, then-President Trump authorized 10,000-20,000 National Guard forces.” The court found that Patel’s testimony was “not credible.”

Testifying before the January 6th Committee, Patel did not claim that Trump issued any order. “I don’t think it’s an order,” Patel testified (p. 42), in reference to the possibility of the National Guardsmen being deployed. Patel added: “I don’t recall, from the best of my memory…any orders being issued.” Patel claimed that he “recall[ed]…authorizations being made for the mobilization of Guard should it be deemed necessary by law enforcement and Governors.” As explained above, Ornato was also unaware of any order by President Trump to deploy 10,000 National Guardsmen – let alone 20,000. He simply claims to have heard the 10,000 figure floated in a single conversation between Meadows and Bowser.

The Colorado district court found that Patel’s claim was “illogical” because “Trump only had authority over about 2,000 National Guardsmen” and would have needed to “contact the Governors of other States and they would have had to then give orders, or he would have had to federalize the Guardsmen from those States.” None of that happened. And Hemingway did not cite this language from the Colorado district court’s ruling, which provides a fuller discussion of why Patel’s testimony was “not credible.”

In addition, the transcript of Ornato’s Nov. 2022 testimony was readily available online. As explained above, Ornato repeated much of the same claim as found in his Jan. 2022 transcript – that he overheard Meadows “offering assistance” from the National Guard to Mayor Bowser. Trump’s defense team could just as easily have attempted to rely on that transcript as supposed “corroboration” for Patel’s testimony.

Conclusion: A Hack Job

The January 6th Select Committee found “no evidence” that “President Trump gave an order to have 10,000 troops ready for January 6th.” That was the original claim made by Mark Meadows and other Trump loyalists. Nothing in the Jan. 2022 transcript of Ornato’s testimony released by Loudermilk refutes that finding. In fact, neither Loudermilk nor Hemingway even claim that such an order was issued. Instead, they use slippery language, such as alleging that the transcript shows Trump “pushed for 10,000 National Guard troops to protect the nation’s capital,” meaning the city of Washington, D.C. Close readers will notice they did not write the nation’s “Capitol,” and there’s nothing in Ornato’s transcript about the National Guardsmen being deployed to protect the U.S. Capitol, which was attacked by Trump’s mob on Jan. 6, 2021.

IMAGE: A pro-Trump mob storms the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)