“You’re going to ask me — Pelosi Questions National Guard Absence During Capitol Riot in Newly Released Footage

 “You’re going to ask me — Pelosi Questions National Guard Absence During Capitol Riot in Newly Released Footage


As then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi fled the Capitol after it was overrun by pro-Trump rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, she grilled her top staffer on a key question: Where was the National Guard?

“You’re going to ask me — in the middle of the thing when they’ve already breached the inaugural stuff — ‘should we call … the National Guard?’” Pelosi asked her chief of staff, Terri McCullough, incredulously while they rode in an SUV to Fort McNair. “Why weren’t the National Guard there to begin with?”

This interaction was captured in a video shot by the former speaker’s daughter, documentarian Alexandra Pelosi, and recently provided to congressional investigators by HBO at the request of Republicans aiming to challenge the findings of the previous Jan. 6 select committee, as per reports the New York Post.

While clips of Pelosi’s conversations that day were shown as part of the previous panel’s work and in a separate documentary by Alexandra Pelosi, much of the footage handed over recently to a House Administration subcommittee has never been released. HBO didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

At Fort McNair, the footage shows top leaders from both chambers, including Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, attempting to coordinate a military response to the violence. They also discussed whether to convene Congress at the military base to continue certifying the 2020 election results, though they preferred returning to the Capitol.

Central to their confusion was the status of their request for help from the National Guard. Questions about the issue persisted from their departure from the Capitol, through phone calls to governors, top military officials, and D.C. leaders, and into the work of the previous Jan. 6 committee and the current GOP-led subcommittee.

In one clip at Fort McNair, Schumer speaks with then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, asking if he denied a request for the National Guard. Schumer remarked, “We’re like a third-world country here.” Capitol security officials had expected street violence and skirmishes, not a concerted mob attack, so they did not seek preemptive support from the National Guard. As the crowd swelled, overwhelmed Capitol Police sought assistance from other police departments and the Guard. Despite urgent pleas, it took over three hours for the Guard to arrive, according to Politico.

Four former National Guard members described in private interviews and a subsequent public hearing in April their frustration at being prevented from responding and recounted senior Army officials’ concerns about the “optics” of deploying the Guard. They criticized McCarthy for being unresponsive during the chaos. McCarthy and then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller admitted miscommunication about the deployment.

Newly provided clips to House Republicans show congressional leaders confused about whether the National Guard assistance request was denied. McCarthy, in a call, tells Schumer he “never said no” but needed “permission” and to “talk to my boss.” Pelosi told then-Vice President Mike Pence that they were “disappointed that the [Secretary of Defense] took so long to approve the National Guard,” noting that Guard personnel at the Capitol didn’t have permission to act.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser told Pelosi and Schumer around 3:30 p.m. that Capitol security officials requested help “probably more than an hour ago” but received “mixed messages” about the status. Bowser mentioned, “I thought there was some resistance from the secretary of the Army.”

Republicans have spent three years attempting to portray Pelosi as solely responsible for the security breakdown, despite shared responsibility among congressional leaders and reliance on police and security officials’ assessments. The new footage does not bolster GOP claims against Pelosi but aligns with and adds depth to previous snippets released by the Jan. 6 select committee and an HBO documentary from 2022.

Pelosi appeared frustrated after leaving the Capitol, questioning why security hadn’t adequately planned for the protest to turn violent. She suggested that Capitol security officials should have been more transparent with lawmakers. McCullough began to explain that security officials believed they were adequately prepared, which aligns with other testimony given to the Jan. 6 committee, but Pelosi cut her off, emphasizing the need for accountability. “What is missing here in terms of anticipation?” Pelosi asked. “They thought these people would act civilized? They thought these people gave a damn?”

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