Two Senate hearings last week attempted to shed light on the egregious failures to keep the U.S. Capitol safe during the Jan. 6 insurrection. Americans and the world watched as insurrectionists rampaged through the Capitol with minimal (albeit heroic) resistance from the meager police forces deployed at the time. It took three hours and 19 minutes for the District of Columbia National Guard to get Pentagon deployment approval.
This was a cataclysmic event in American history that deserved serious answers to serious lawmaker inquiries. From Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, however, Americans got to see someone overly concerned about potentially monitored communications between lawmakers and insurrectionists. Does Hawley have reason to be worried beyond his fist-pump encouragement as the insurrectionists swarmed toward the Capitol? CNN reported Thursday that federal investigators are examining records of communications to determine whether lawmakers or their staffers may have provided help to the attackers.
As Hawley used his time to ask about FBI monitoring methods, others got straight to the real point: Why did it take so long for help to arrive when the lives of the vice president, speaker of the House and their colleagues were under direct threat?
“It shouldn’t take three hours to either say yes or no to an urgent request,” Maj. Gen. William Walker, the D.C. National Guard commander, told one Senate panel. Still unanswered is whether the Pentagon deliberately delayed troop deployments under pressure from then-President Donald Trump, whose speech earlier on Jan. 6 incited the rampage. The stock Pentagon answer is that blowback from the National Guard’s response to Black Lives Matter protests during the spring and summer caused decision-makers to err on the side of restraint this time.
That explanation ignores a crucial difference: These weren’t bricks being thrown through vacant storefronts. The U.S. Capitol was under violent occupation by people who had erected a hangman’s noose and gallows outside while the president sat in the White House watching.
To his credit, Sen. Roy Blunt called for an unvarnished review of the facts and for those facts to take lawmakers “where they take us in a non-partisan way.” Notably, none of the Pentagon officials who actually made deployment decisions on Jan. 6 testified. Blunt told reporters he wants to hear from former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller.
Hawley used much of his time during both Senate committee hearings to question FBI officials about methods law enforcers used to know who was communicating with whom, where and when, as the attack was underway. His questions seemed to be completely unrelated to issues of security delays and failures. Hawley’s focus suggested he was more concerned with the civil rights of those he helped encourage than the victims — including the Senate and House membership — terrorized during the attack.