Ex-National Guard official says Army generals lied to Congress, alleging cover-up of decision to withhold troops from the Capitol on January 6

·5 min read
National Guard US Capitol January 6 Capitol siege riot protest
Members of the National Guard in Washington, DC, on January 6, after rioters broke into the US Capitol.AP Photo/John Minchillo
  • Col. Earl Matthews said Army generals declined to send DC Guardsmen to the Capitol on January 6.

  • Matthews accused Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt and Gen. Charles Flynn of later lying to Congress about that.

  • In a new memo, Matthews called the two generals "absolute and unmitigated liars."

A former official with the DC National Guard accused two US Army generals of lying to Congress about their decision to withhold troops from the Capitol on January 6 and suggested an Army cover-up of their actions that day.

That official, Col. Earl Matthews, recalled in a memo submitted last Wednesday to the House's January 6 commission, a copy of which Politico obtained, that the generals raised concerns about the appearance of uniformed troops at the Capitol even as rioters breached the building, comments the generals have denied making.

At the time of the riot, Matthews was the top attorney to Maj. Gen. William Walker, then the commanding general of the DC National Guard. Matthews wrote that Walker held a call with military and law-enforcement leaders at 2:30 p.m. on January 6, about 90 minutes after rioters broke past Capitol security.

During the phone call, Steven Sund, then the Capitol Police chief, asked Gen. Charles Flynn, who was then the Army's deputy chief of staff for operations, and Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, then the director of Army staff, to grant permission for the DC National Guard to step in, Matthews said.

Matthews wrote that Piatt and Flynn said they didn't think it was a good idea.

"Piatt stated that it would not be his best military advice to recommend to the Secretary of the Army that the DC National Guard be allowed to deploy to the Capitol at that time," Matthews wrote.

He added that "Piatt and Flynn stated that the optics of having uniformed military personnel deployed to the US Capitol would not be good." Matthews said later in the memo that one of the two generals mentioned something about "peaceful protesters."

Matthews wrote that the two generals suggested guardsmen be sent to take over police traffic duties so that those police officers could be sent to help at the Capitol complex instead.

Piatt and Flynn have said in testimony to Congress that they did not say guardsmen shouldn't go to the Capitol.

"At no point on January 6 did I tell anyone that the DC National Guard should not deploy directly to the Capitol," Piatt told the House Oversight Committee on June 15.

During the same hearing, Flynn told lawmakers that he "never expressed a concern about the visuals, image, or public perception of" sending guard personnel to the Capitol.

The version of events in Matthews' memo echoed Walker's congressional testimony in March, when he said that even as Sund "passionately pleaded" for Guard support at the Capitol, Army officials on the call countered that they "did not think that it looked good" or that "it would be a good optic."

He specifically said Piatt and Flynn had raised concerns about the optics.

Walker recalled that it took military leaders three hours from when Capitol Police called for backup to tell him to send in troops to respond. He said they "could have made a difference," adding that they "could have extended the perimeter and helped push back the crowd."

The memo is also consistent with what Sund told The Washington Post days after the riot. He said that when he asked for help, Piatt said, "I don't like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background."

Piatt denied giving such a response. "I did not make the statement or any comments similar to what was attributed to me by Chief Sund in the Washington Post article," he said at the time.

"Neither I, nor anyone else from DoD, denied the deployment of requested personnel," he said, adding that while he was leading the call, during which he explained to the participants that he was not the approval authority, the secretary of the Army was talking to the acting defense secretary to get approval.

That approval was said to have come in 40 minutes later; however, troops did not arrive at the Capitol until much later.

In his memo, Matthews called Piatt and Flynn "absolute and unmitigated liars."

"The Army's actions on January 6th have been well-documented and reported on, and Gen. Flynn and Lt. Gen. Piatt have been open, honest and thorough in their sworn testimony with Congress and DOD investigators," the Army told Insider in a statement.

"As the Inspector General concluded, actions taken 'were appropriate, supported by requirements, consistent with the DOD's roles and responsibilities for DSCA, and compliant with laws, regulations, and other applicable guidance,'" the service said.

"We stand by all testimony and facts provided to date, and vigorously reject any allegations to the contrary," the Army said. "However, with the January 6th Commission's investigation still ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Trump Jan 6
A Trump rally on the National Mall on January 6.Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Flynn's role in the riot response has previously come under scrutiny because of his brother, Michael Flynn, the retired Army general and former national security adviser who said in the days before the riot that President Donald Trump should impose martial law to overturn his election loss.

The Army initially denied that Charles Flynn was involved in the riot response until the general acknowledged his role in a statement to The Washington Post.

In his memo, Matthews said the Army had written its own fabricated version of the events of January 6.

Matthews said Piatt had "directed the development of an Army 'White Paper' to retell events of 6 January in a light more favorable to LTGs Flynn, Piatt, Secretary McCarthy and the Army Staff."

Matthews argued the aim of the document was "to create an alternate history which would be the Army's official recollection of events."

Matthews called the end result "a revisionist tract worthy of the best Stalinist or North Korea propagandist."

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