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FBI & Defense Officials Testify on Deadly Insurrection. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 3, 2021 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM J. WALKER, COMMANDING GENERAL, DC NATIONAL GUARD: That number could have made a difference.

[11:00:01]

We could have helped extend the perimeter and helped push back the crowd.

SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Ms. Sanborn and Ms. Smislova, last week, we heard from former law enforcement officials who stated that a lack of intelligence reporting was the main reason for Capitol police not being fully prepared for the January 6th attack.

My question to you, yes or no, would you agree that the intelligence community failed to sufficiently identify the threat and warn the Capitol police of a plot to breach the Capitol, that a plot that was planned in public and announced in advance in a number of open sources?

JILL SANBORN, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI'S COUNTERTERRORISM DIVISION: I think this is on.

I'll start. I wouldn't necessarily categorize it that way, sir, but I will tell you, I think you've heard us say before, there's not an agent that wouldn't want more tools in their tool box. There's not an analyst that wouldn't want more intelligence.

And I think I just paint a quick picture for you the challenges we faced are, the immense amount of rhetoric out there, and what we're trying to separate is aspirational from intent, and combine in, in order to get to that intent, we're really thinking about private communications and oftentimes encryption. So, I would say what we are faced with is the challenge of the amount of data and then really trying to find, because of the volume and because of private communications, intent, that then would have given us the intelligence picture potentially to shed light on what some of the plans and intention, indicators and warnings, as our military folks might say.

PETERS: Ms. Smislova, quickly, please?

MELISSA SMISLOVA, ACTING UNDER SECRETARY OF OFFICE OF INTELLIGENCE & ANALYSIS, DHS: I will defer to you, Senator, your colleagues, other oversight entities to actually determine what went wrong on January 6th. I don't feel I'm empowered or have enough information to declare whether or not this is an intelligence failure.

I do know, however, it was not a success, and we will do everything we can to make sure that what we know is better distributed and understood by our partners.

And to echo the bureau's point, we will also do more to better understand how we can identify the next steps that we see in social media with particular threat.

PETERS: Clearly, we have to do a much better job. I'm sure this will be explored --

SMISLOVA: Yes.

PETERS: -- in depth, in questioning from my colleagues here.

Chairwoman Klobuchar?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), CHAIRWOMAN, RULES COMMITTEE: Thank you very much, Chairman.

I want to start by asking you the same questions I asked our witnesses last week, and that is that based on what you know now, including the recent Justice Department indictments, do you believe there's clear evidence that supports a conclusion that there was those who planned and coordinated the attack on the Capitol on January 6? Does everyone agree with that? Yes? No?

SANBORN: We are seeing indications from our charging documents of people that coalesced together and made plans.

KLOBUCHAR: So everyone is a yes on this? Anyone, want to say if they're a no. I don't want to call on everyone. Are you all a yes?

SANBORN: Yes, yes, ma'am.

KLOBUCHAR: OK. OK.

Then would you agree that it involved white supremacists and extremists groups, the planning? Is everyone a yes on that?

SANBORN: I might say that we're seeing a wide range of involvement and still a lot left to be identified, right, a lot -- .

KLOBUCHAR: Does it involve white supremacists? That's what I'm asking. The extremist group.

SANBORN: Some, some.

KLOBUCHAR: And was the -- was the event not planned by Antifa?

SANBORN: At this point, we have not identified a specific individual that we've charged associating or self-identifying with Antifa.

KLOBUCHAR: OK, thank you. And would you all agree that what happened was a highly dangerous

situation that had the potential to be much worse if it wasn't for the heroic actions of the front line officers?

SMISLOVA: Yes.

SANBORN: Yes.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

All right. General Walker, I'm going to start with you. I wasn't going to start here, but I am after what I just heard.

So, Chief Contee had said that he was stunned at the response from the Department of the Army when former Police Chief Sund requested assistance from the guard. What's your reaction to what Contee said? Were you frustrated on that call as well?

WALKER: Yes, I was, Senator Klobuchar. I was frustrated. I was just as stunned as everybody else on the call.

KLOBUCHAR: And I understand, and correct me if I'm wrong, that with the National Guard it's much better to prepare them and call them into action and have a plan, which I know that -- I've heard from Mr. Salesses, that people tried to do, they called the chief, they called the people and said you want to have the guard mobilized.

And there was a discussion between you and Sund leading up to January 6 in which this was discussed.

[11:05:02]

And you didn't have a clear direction to have them mobilized. Is that correct?

WALKER: Yes, ma'am.

So, I talked to Chief Sund on Sunday. I talked to him Saturday and Sunday. We talk. We're friends. I've known him for a long time.

So, on Sunday, I asked him, are you going to request D.C. National Guard help? And if you do, I need it in writing. It has to be formal because the secretary of defense has to approve it.

He told me he was not allowed to request the support. I asked him if he wanted me to share that, and he said, no, I can't even ask you for the support, is what he told me.

KLOBUCHAR: Uh-huh.

WALKER: But he did say, but if I do call you, will you be able to support me? I said, yes, but I have to get approval from the secretary of the Army and ultimately from the secretary of defense because it's a federal request.

KLOBUCHAR: Exactly. As we've heard from Chief Sund last week, he had been denied by the sergeant at arms, and that's a subject for last week.

But the subject for today is, given all that, and we know we would have been in much better shape if they had been called in ahead and if he had the authority. Now we're to the day. It is 2:22. You're on the phone with them and you're asking for this authorization which you felt it was unusual to get, is that right? Unusual that you --

WALKER: I thought the delay was unusual.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes.

WALKER: And -- so we were already in support of the Metropolitan Police Department. And when the Metropolitan Police Department left the traffic control points, what I wanted to do was take those guardsmen and move them to the Capitol immediately be -- and my logic was, we were still in direct support -- we would have been in support of the Metropolitan Police Department who was supporting the United States Capitol police at that point.

KLOBUCHAR: I just keep imagining the scene. The whole country, the whole world is seeing this on TV. You've got the police line breached at this moment. You have -- you have smashed windows. You have insurrectionists going through the police lines.

You are on the phone, everyone is seeing this on TV, and they're not immediately approve approving your request. In your recent testimony you just said, hey, I could have gotten them on those buses and ready to go. Is that correct?

WALKER: That is correct, Senator.

KLOBUCHAR: And as you just testified in response to Senator Peters, you believe that would have made a difference to have them at the perimeter at a sooner point. I know people that in charge of Capitol security felt the same.

WALKER: Yes, ma'am.

KLOBUCHAR: So you could have had them there earlier, hours earlier if it had been approved. Then you had them on the bus, so they were sitting on the bus for a short period of time, right, waiting because you thought, well, they just got to honor the request.

Is that how your head was working? So, you actually put them on the bus, so they were ready to go. You couldn't let the buses go?

WALKER: Yes, Senator. I just came to the conclusion that eventually I'm going to get approval and I didn't want -- and at that point, seconds mattered, minutes mattered. And I need to be ready to get them there as quick as possible. So, I already had District of Columbia National Guard, military police vehicle in front the bus to get them through any traffic lights. So, we were there in 18 minutes.

KLOBUCHAR: Eighteen minutes.

WALKER: I arrived at 17:20. KLOBUCHAR: OK.

WALKER: Yeah, they were sworn in as soon as they got there, and they made a difference, according to the Capitol Police.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, according to a lot of us. I just keep thinking of the hours that went by and the people who were injured and the officers whose lives were changed forever.

A lot has been reported about the quick response force that was waiting at Andrews Air Force Base to be deployed to D.C. just in case. Now, that force was set up as additional troops to support the guard's traffic control mission as needed. Is that right?

WALKER: Yes, ma'am.

KLOBUCHAR: And the quick response force couldn't be deployed immediately once the violence began because they were not outfitted for riot control. Is that right?

WALKER: No, ma'am. They were outfitted.

So, the quick reaction force was District of Columbia Air National Guard, security forces squadron. Most of those guardsmen are law enforcement officers in their civilian positions.

KLOBUCHAR: Got it.

WALKER: So they were -- they were ready to go and they were outfitted with all the equipment that they needed.

KLOBUCHAR: And they were out at Andrews?

WALKER: They were at Andrews. I took it upon myself to move them without permission. I just moved them to the armory so they would be closer as well.

KLOBUCHAR: Okay. Who was on that conversation with you? You mentioned from the Defense Department? I know who was on there from the police and D.C.

WALKER: So, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn.

[11:10:01]

He was the chief -- he was in charge of operations for the Army. The director of the Army staff was on the phone -- was on the call, Lieutenant General Piatt. There were other senior civilian leaders from the United States army and other high-ranking general officers were on the call as well.

KLOBUCHAR: Okay. Do you remember who was mostly talking about the optics, the questions that senator Peters asked you and their concern about that?

WALKER: Yes. So, during the phone call with the District of Columbia national -- the District of Columbia leaders, the deputy mayor, Chief Sund, Dr. Rodriguez, who was talking about optics were General Flynn and General Piatt. And they both said it wouldn't be in their best military advice to advise the secretary of the army to have uniformed guards members at the Capitol during the election confirmation.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

Mr. Salesses, could you explain why they would say such a thing? I know you were not on the call, and you were the one they sent here on behalf of the Defense Department. You were not on the call. So do you have any idea why this delay occurred when, as Senator Peters has well pointed out, it didn't occur in other incidences?

ROBERT SALESSES, SENIOR DEFENSE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Senator, as you point out, I was not on the calls, any of the calls.

KLOBUCHAR: We know that.

SALESSES: OK.

KLOBUCHAR: That's why I spent my time talking to someone who was.

SALESSES: Right. However, Senator, in preparation for the hearing, I have had the opportunity to talk to General Walker. I've had the opportunity to talk to General Piatt and other general officers on the Army staff. I've also had the opportunity to talk with Secretary McCarthy in preparation for the hearing so that I could understand the details.

KLOBUCHAR: Okay. So just if you could answer my questions, there's so many of my colleagues waiting. Why this happened?

SALESSES: General Piatt told me yesterday that he didn't say anything about optics.

KLOBUCHAR: He maybe, meaning he didn't use the word optics? Are you saying General Walker who just testified they were concerned about this is wrong or that --

SALESSES: General Piatt told me yesterday, Senator, he did not use the word optics.

KLOBUCHAR: I think that -- I'll let General Walker answer this. I think what he's talking about is the general concern was that they were more concerned about how this would appear and it was in their best advice -- I guess what bears out his testimony is they did not send the national guard there for hours, they didn't give the authorization for him as he waited with his troops to go over to the Capitol.

SALESSES: Senator, in fairness to the committee, General Piatt is not a decision maker. The only decision makers on the 6th of January were the secretary of defense and the secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy. There was a chain of command from secretary of defense, to Secretary McCarthy to General Walker. That's the chain of command. There's lots of staff that is involved and obviously having

discussions. But to be clear, on that day, that was the chain of command.

KLOBUCHAR: Just could I give General Walker -- I think we should give him a moment to respond and then I'll be done.

WALKER: Yes, Senator. So, the chain of command is the president, the secretary of defense, secretary of the Army, William Walker, commanding general, District of Columbia National Guard.

Can I just make a correction? I said Lieutenant General Mike Flynn. It was Lieutenant General Charles Flynn.

KLOBUCHAR: Got it.

WALKER: Sorry. I just want to correct that.

KLOBUCHAR: OK.

WALKER: But there were people in the room with me on that call that heard what they heard.

KLOBUCHAR: Okay. We'll have to follow up with more questions. I appreciate your testimony. Thank you.

PETERS: Ranking Member Portman, you're recognized for your questions.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): Thank you, Chairman Peters. Thanks to our witnesses.

General Walker, I'm going to continue to talk about your recollection, if you don't mind. This morning, you testified you received this letter from Secretary McCarthy on January 5th, so just the day before the attack on the Capitol. In that letter, did Secretary McCarthy prohibit you from employing the National Guard's quick reaction force without his authorization?

WALKER: So, I have the letter in front of me. His letter does not, but it is the secretary of defense that says I have to use it as a last resort. But the secretary of the army told me and it's -- I have the letter -- that I could not use the quick reaction force. It would -- it would -- he would -- I'll just read it.

PORTMAN: Yeah.

WALKER: I withhold authority to approve employment of the District of Columbia National Guard quick reaction force and will do so only as a last resort in response to a request from an appropriate civil authority. It will require a concept of operation prior to authorizing employment of a civil -- of a quick reaction force.

[11:15:06]

Now, a quick reaction force normally is a commander's tool to go help either a civilian agency, but more typically to help the national guardsmen who are out there and need assistance.

PORTMAN: I think it's the very definition of a quick reaction force to be able to react quickly.

WALKER: Yes, sir.

PORTMAN: When you've got to go through that kind of authorization including coming up with a concept of operation before the secretary or, as you say, the secretary of defense -- so the secretary of army and secretary of defense would approve deployment, seems to be contrary to the whole concept of a quick reaction force.

WALKER: And just to be clear, the secretary of defense said I could use it as a last resort.

PORTMAN: Last resort, right.

WALKER: But the secretary of the army says I could only use it after he gave me permission, and only then after a concept of operation --

PORTMAN: Right. And we talked about the chain of command earlier. So, your chain of command is both of these gentlemen. In other words, you didn't have the authority to deploy that quick reaction force based on either the letter or the earlier memo that went from the secretary of defense -- acting secretary of defense to the secretary of the army.

Is that correct?

WALKER: That's correct, yes, sir.

PORTMAN: Yeah, I also thought it was odd, and I think you said it was unusual and very prescriptive that the January 5th letter required the secretary of the army to approve the movement of deployed guardsmen from one traffic control point to another. Did you find that unusual?

WALKER: Nineteen years, I never would -- I never had that before happen. So on that day, the Metropolitan Police, as they would any other day, requested that a traffic control point move one block, one block over. Traffic -- no traffic was where they were, so they wanted the traffic control point to move one block.

I had to get permission. I told them, I'll get back to you. I contacted Lieutenant General Piatt who contacted the sec secretary of the army. I had to explain where that traffic control point was in relationship to the Capitol. And only then did I get permission to move the three National Guardsmen supporting the Metropolitan Police --

PORTMAN: These are three unarmed National Guardsmen helping with traffic control, in part so Metropolitan Police can do other things. They were not permitted to move a block away without permission from the secretary of the army. Is that true?

WALKER: That's correct.

PORTMAN: Yeah. And in your testimony, you also talk about riot gear. That January 4th memorandum from acting Secretary Miller to the Army secretary required the personal approval of the secretary of defense for the National Guard to be issued riot gear. Is that correct?

WALKER: That's correct. But the secretary of the army told me to go ahead and put it in the vehicles.

PORTMAN: Yeah.

WALKER: I give him credit for that.

PORTMAN: Yeah, you say that earlier, you give him credit for him saying at least have it there so it was accessible.

WALKER: Yeah.

PORTMAN: But still, you couldn't prepare for a civil disturbance without getting permission from the secretary of the army and the secretary of defense. Is that true?

WALKER: Normally for a safety and force protection matter, a commander would be able to authorize his guardsmen to protect themselves with helmets and protective equipment.

PORTMAN: Yeah. Well, as I said earlier, I'm disappointed we don't have somebody from DOD who actually was there at the time. I think you're being put in a deep (ph) position, Mr. Salesses.

But, Mr. Salesses, I have to ask you -- why did the Department of Defense impose these restrictions on General Walker and the National Guard on January 6th?

SALESSES: I apologize.

Senator, Secretary Miller wanted to make the decisions of how the National Guard was going to be employed on that day. As you recall, Senator, the spring events, there was a number of things that happened during those events that Secretary Miller, as the acting secretary --

PORTMAN: Yeah, well, clearly, clearly he wanted to. The question is why, and how unusual. Don't you think that's unusual based on your experience at DOD?

SALESSES: Senator, there was a lot of things that happened in the spring that the department was criticized for.

PORTMAN: Don't you think that's unusual?

SALESSES: Sir, if I could, Senator, civil disturbance operations, that authority rests with the secretary of defense. If somebody is going to make a decision about deploying military members against U.S. citizens in a civil disturbance situation --

PORTMAN: Let's talk about the quick reaction force then. Again, you got a lot of experience, with your background. We appreciate you being here. Again, with you weren't making decisions that day. They kind of put you forward as the person to answer the questions. [11:20:03]

But based on your discussions with individuals, but isn't the purpose of a quick reaction force to quickly react to unfolding situations?

SALESSES: Senator, it is. It is designed to be that.

PORTMAN: Isn't requiring a pre-submitted concept of operations antithetical to the idea of enabling quick reaction?

SALESSES: Again, Senator, I would call our attention to the quick reaction force that day was designed to respond to the traffic control points and the metro stations. We didn't have a quick reaction force to respond to the events that unfolded on the Capitol.

PORTMAN: Well, I don't know that that's true. General Walker, did you not have a quick reaction force?

I think you did. You had police officers who were also guardsmen who were involved in your quick reaction force, correct?

WALKER: I did.

PORTMAN: And wouldn't they have been appropriate to respond to the attack on the Capitol?

WALKER: In my opinion, they would have been.

PORTMAN: I don't know. Look, I wish we had the people who were making the decision, Mr. Salesses. And I don't want to put you in this position. But you're all we've got in terms of talking to DOD today.

In your opinion, did the attack on the Capitol constitute a last resort?

SALESSES: Last resort, you mean an immediate response, sir?

PORTMAN: No, in the -- remember, in the letter it said only as a last resort. Do you think last resort situation occurred when there was an attack on the Capitol?

SALESSES: There was certainly a last resort situation that occurred, Senator.

PORTMAN: So why did it take the Department of Defense so long to authorize the use of the National Guard in particular, the use of the QFR?

SALESSES: Senator, I can relay what I've obtained from my discussions with the personnel that were involved that day. If you'd like to go through with the timeline or just answer the question based on why the decision makers, in this case Secretary McCarthy -- Secretary McCarthy, if we go through the timeline, clearly at 2:22, as has been mentioned today, Secretary McCarthy at 2:30 as I pointed out in my oral statement, went down and sourced Secretary Miller at 2:30. At 3:04, Secretary Miller made the decision to mobilize the entire

National Guard. That meant that he was calling in all the National Guard members that were assigned to the D.C. National Guard. At 3:04, that decision was made.

Between that period of time, between 3:04 and 4:10, basically, Secretary McCarthy had asked for -- he wanted to understand, because of the dynamics on the Capitol lawn with the explosives that obviously shots had been fired, he wanted to understand the employment of how the nard guard was going to be sent to the Capitol, what their missions were going to be? Were they going to be clearing buildings, doing perimeter security? How would they be equipped?

He wanted to understand how they would be armed because obviously shots had been fired. He was asking a lot of questions to understand exactly how they were going to be employed here at the Capitol and how many National Guard members needed to be employed on the Capitol.

PORTMAN: Let me say with all due respect, and my time is coming to an end. Three hours and 19 minutes, three hours and 19 minutes from the first call, plea really, with his voice cracking with emotion, as the major general said, you have Chief of Police Sund saying help, we need help now, three hours and 19 minutes. That can't happen again. You agree with that?

SALESSES: Senator, I do.

PORTMAN: Thank you.

KLOBUCHAR: Very good.

Ranking Member Blunt.

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): Thank you, Chairwoman.

General Walker, if the restrictions on your authorities hadn't been put in place by DOD, what would you have done when Chief Sund called you at 1:49 on January 6th with an urgent request for National Guard assistance?

WALKER: I would have immediately pulled all the guardsmen that were supporting the Metropolitan Police Department, they had the gear in the vehicles. I would have had them assemble in the armory and get on buses and go straight to the armory and report to the most ranking Capitol Police officer they saw and take direction. Let me add this. One of my lieutenant colonels on his own initiative went to the Capitol, anticipating we were going to be called.

So he would have been there, and he met with Deputy Chief Carroll of the Metropolitan Police Department who asked him where is the National Guard, how come they're not here? This colonel said, well, I'm sure they're coming. I'm here to scout out where they're going to be when they get here. So, that was the plan. I would have sent them there immediately.

[11:25:03] As soon as I hung up, my next call would have been to my subordinate commanders, get every single guardsman in this building and everybody helping the Metropolitan Police, re-mission them to the Capitol without delay.

BLUNT: And how quickly do you think you could have had people here? I think you said a minute ago that the guard had moved from Andrews to the armory here by 3:30. Is that right?

WALKER: Yes, sir.

BLUNT: How quickly was the colonel here?

WALKER: He came with the police.

BLUNT: He was here immediately?

WALKER: Yes, sir, yes, sir. He was here immediately. When the metropolitan police left some of the traffic control points, my colonel left with them and came straight to the Capitol, anticipating that that's where the fire was, and that fire needed to be put out.

BLUNT: Well, there certainly was concern here immediately. In fact, yesterday I saw a message that I sent Mr. Elder who was the director of the Rules Committee for me when I was chairman at the time. The quote on that message, that text message was, could this information about the defense department and the National Guard possibly be true? That's 3:09, already wondering where Senator Klobuchar and other senators were, could it possibly be true that the Defense Department was not sending the guard immediately.

Mr. Salesses, on the January 5th letter, that's described as Secretary McCarthy relaying new restrictions from the Acting Secretary of the Defense Miller, Christopher miller, would that be accurate? Would those be new instructions and do you agree that General Walker had more flexibility before those instructions than he did after? I think that's a yes or no.

Do you agree he had more flexibility before those instructions than he did after? That would be one question. And two, would it be fair to say those were new instructions or not?

SALESSES: Senator, General Walker, in fairness to him, can't respond to a civil defense -- civil disturbance operation without the authority of the secretary of defense. So absent these memos, General Walker would have had to get approval to respond to the Capitol through the secretary of defense.

BLUNT: Well, let's talk about that approval process. I think you said a minute ago to Senator Portman, if you'd like to go through the timeline -- I assume you're talking about the Department of Defense timeline that I have in front of me. You mentioned 15:04 as one of your reference points. At 15:19 or 3:19, that timeline says secretary of the army, phone call with Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi about the nature of Mayor Bowser's request. Secretary of the army explains, acting secretary of defense already

approved full D.C. NG, full D.C. National Guard mobilization. Would that be right as of 3:19?

SALESSES: That would be accurate. But if I could clarify what mobilization is --

BLUNT: Let me go one step further and I'll let you do that. At 15:26, 3:26, secretary of the army phone call with Mayor Bowser and Metropolitan Police Chief relays that there is no denial of their request and conveys assistant -- acting secretary of defense approval of the activation of full national guard.

So on your timeline, within seven minutes, one is mobilization, the other is activation. Go ahead and explain what those two things mean.

SALESSES: So, Senator, those words with being used interchangeably. What Secretary Miller did at 15:04 on 6 January was authorize the mobilization or activation of the National Guard, the D.C. National Guard. All that does, sir, is provide for the National Guard to be called in from wherever their homes are to come to the armory. That's what the mobilization activation order was.

BLUNT: I wonder if that's what secretary -- I wonder if that's what Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi thought it meant. You can't answer that. Only they could.

I wonder if that's what Mayor Bowser thought it meant when they were told at 3:19 and 3:26 that the guard has been mobilized and the guard was being activated. I don't expect you to be able to answer what they thought. I know I would have assumed that that meant the guard was on the way unless I was specifically told, well, they're mobilized, but they really won't be there until we make a decision, hours later.