Did Donald Trump warn Congress to deploy the National Guard prior to his rally on January 6th? In an interview with Fox News host Steve Hilton after his appearance at CPAC, Trump said he realized that Capitol Hill authorities were underestimating the size of the rally and tried to get them to authorize 10,000 soldiers to keep the peace. Trump lays the blame on unnamed “Capitol leaders” — not specifically Nancy Pelosi, despite the spin on social media — for ignoring him.
But would it change the narrative or the reality if Trump had issued this warning?
Trump told “The Next Revolution With Steve Hilton” that his team alerted the Department of Defense days before the rally that crowds might be larger than anticipated and 10,000 national guardsmen should be ready to deploy. He said that — from what he understands — the warning was passed along to leaders at the Capitol, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — and he heard that the request was rejected because these leaders did not like the optics of 10,000 troops at the Capitol.
“So, you know, that was a big mistake,” he said.
Pelosi’s office and the Defense Department did not immediately respond to an email inquiry from Fox News. Trump told Steve Hilton, the show’s host, that he “hated” to see what unfolded on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol.
This does match up with a claim made last month by Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, who told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo that Trump had actually issued “a direct order” for 10,000 troops to ready for deployment. Thus far, there hasn’t been any independent corroboration for this claim, although an image of a memo purportedly from then-acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller is making the rounds on Twitter. It hasn’t been authenticated yet, and there is still very little on this claim other than the claim itself.
So what would this change, if true? The responsibility for actually requesting or ordering the deployment on Capitol grounds would be the Capitol’s authorities — Congress, or the Capitol Hill police under Congress’ aegis, or possibly the city itself under the same jurisdiction. The delay in calling out the Guard is one of the main topics under investigation by Congress at the moment, along with determining whether the crowd got incited by Trump and others to bust into the Capitol and attempt to derail the final action of the election process. Whether Trump ordered readiness or not, those troops would have deployed if called upon in an emergency, but if Trump’s telling the truth, he would certainly look a little better.
However, it’s easy to be skeptical about the claim. In the same interview, Trump called the rally a “lovefest,” which is absurd given its conclusion:
“That rally was massive. I mean, the press doesn’t like to talk about it, but the real number was much, much bigger in terms of the people that were at the location,” he told Fox News. “It went all the way back practically to the Washington Monument. Not the Capitol, I’m talking about the rally itself.”
The National Park Service told NBC News before the rally that organizers expected about 30,000 people to attend.
Trump went on to call the rally a “lovefest” and a “beautiful thing.”
During the rally near the White House, Trump falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent and stolen from him, and urged his supporters to march on Capitol Hill, telling them they “have to show strength.”
Rioters then breached police lines and stormed the Capitol as Congress was convened to certify then President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College. They scaled walls, smashed windows and laid siege on the building — forcing lawmakers to evacuate.
That spin echoes Trump himself on January 6. When he finally made a statement on camera about the riot, he called on the rioters to withdraw, but emphasized “we love you” while doing so. That doesn’t sound like someone who had great concerns over security around his rally just a few days earlier, although it’s not mutually exclusive either.
If Trump really did suggest deploying 10,000 troops and ordered their readiness ahead of January 6th, it will make the probes more uncomfortable for those “Capitol leaders” who ignored it. They’re already trying to explain away other warnings from intelligence and law-enforcement agencies about the potential for violence on January 6th. But if Trump really was worried about those issues enough to warn about getting that much extra security in the Capitol, it begs the question as to why Trump didn’t cancel the rally in the first place, no?
Here’s the full interview. The topic of the January 6 riot comes up at the 16-minute mark.