A Democratic lawmaker called former acting defense secretary Chris Miller “ridiculous” on Wednesday for trying to walk back his claims that former President Donald Trump incited the violent Jan. 6 insurrection.
In written remarks prepared for his testimony before a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on the riot, and in a March interview with VICE, Miller had called out Trump for directly inciting thousands of MAGA supporters to attack the Capitol after repeated claims that the 2020 election was “stolen.”
“You said the insurrection happened because of Trump’s speech,” Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) said during the hearing.
But Miller then tried to walk back his original claims, saying he’d had a change of heart after seeing information from the ongoing criminal investigation into the siege and statements from D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee. He said he now believed there was “some sort of conspiracy where there were organized assault elements that intended to assault the Capitol that day.”
“I’d like to modify my original assessment,” Miller said, to which Lynch snarked,” Why am I not surprised about that?”
“We are getting more information by the day, by the minute,” Miller said. “There was some sort of conspiracy... that intended to storm that Capitol that day… I have reassessed. [Trump was] not the unitary factor at all.”
An incredulous Lynch told Miller, “For your written testimony for today, for today, this morning, you stated the following about the president, quote, 'I personally believe his comments encouraged the protesters that day.'”
Unsatisfied with Miller’s response, Lynch called him out for his “very recent reversal of your testimony.”
“Absolutely not. That’s ridiculous,” Miller responded, clearly agitated.
“You’re ridiculous!” Lynch hit back. Miller seemed stunned by insult, before sarcastically thanking the lawmaker for his thoughts. He later slammed Lynch for the “partisan attack.”
Miller’s new reasoning doesn’t quite hold water. Of the 400 individuals charged in connection with the riot, dozens have been accused of planning and training to storm the Capitol. But prosecutors say those alleged conspirators, most of whom belong to MAGA-loving paramilitary group the Oath Keepers, openly admitted that they felt compelled to protest widespread election fraud in D.C. on Jan. 6 at Trump’s behest.
Miller previously has been criticized for waiting too long to authorize National Guard troops amid the insurrection and for ignoring pleas from D.C. leaders for help.
Defending his own actions, he said in his prepared remarks that he was concerned about sending U.S. troops into the Capitol out of the “possibility of a military coup or that advisers to the President were advocating the declaration of martial law.”
Miller said that he wanted to ensure the operation to deploy the National Guard was finalized before making the call for military assistance to ensure the optics were carefully considered.
“I was also cognizant of the fears promulgated by many about the prior use of the military in the June 2020 response to protests near the White House and fears that the President would invoke the Insurrection Act to politicize the military in an anti-democratic manner,” Miller added in his statement, stressing that he was not going to allow a coup under his watch.
But Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) slammed Miller for not taking accountability or having any “sense of shame” for his role in the siege.
“Will you apologize to the American public for what happened on your watch? Will you apologize to the troops for what happened on your watch?” Khanna asked. “I can’t believe we had someone like you in that role... it’s total self-promotion. All you're trying to do is cover your own reputation.”
Dodging Khanna’s request to apologize, Miller instead said he wanted to “highlight the incredible job of the members of our armed forces.”
“I stand by every decision I made on January 6,” Miller said.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) also tore Miller to shreds on the crucial “1.5-hour gap” between D.C. Mayor Muriel Bower’s request for National Guard backup at about 1:30 p.m. and Miller’s authorization at 3:04 p.m. on Jan. 6. He noted that Trump had told Miller on Jan. 3 to grant Bowser’s request for resources.
“Sir, she requested additional support from you. And during that 1.5 hours either you disobeyed an order given to you by the president to help Mayor Bowser, or the president changed his order and asked you to delay the support, or you just plain froze and were being indecisive as people were being injured, killed, while hundreds of rioters breached the Capitol and a nation was traumatized,” Krishnamoorthi said.
When Miller insisted there were “8,000 badged and credentialed police officers on duty,” Krishnamoorthi asked him specifically why he was missing in action.
“That’s completely inaccurate!” Miller hit back, to which Krishnamoorthi responded, “Sir, you partially own this mayhem and that why I’m going to ask for a Department of Defense investigation into your actions.”
“I already requested that before I left the DoD,” Miller said.
In his March interview with VICE, Miller said he believed Trump played a clear role in the insurrection, stating that “it’s pretty much definitive” the event wouldn’t have happened if the president had not encouraged it in his speech that day.
“It seems cause-and-effect,” Miller said at the time. “The question is, did he know he was enraging people to do that? I don’t know.”