The day after the 2020 presidential election was called for Joe Biden, Donald Trump got right to work … firing his Defense secretary for reasons that weren’t altogether clear. For the final two months of the Republican’s term, the outgoing president handed the reins at the Pentagon to Chris Miller.
Nearly two years later, Miller has offered plenty of criticisms of his former boss, though it was his testimony to the Jan. 6 committee that’s likely to bother Trump and his team the most.
We’d already learned that the former president didn’t bother to contact the acting Defense secretary during the attack on the Capitol, but yesterday, the House select committee went further, releasing an excerpt from Miller’s behind-closed-door testimony, including his response when asked about claims that Trump had ordered him to have as many as 10,000 National Guard troops on the ready ahead of Jan. 6.
“I was never given any direction or order or knew of any plans of that nature,” Miller testified, adding, “We obviously had plans for activating more folks, but that was not anything more than contingency planning. There was no official message traffic or anything of that nature.”
Seeking additional clarity, an investigator asked if Miller, during his tenure as the acting Defense secretary, had 10,000 troops “on the ready” prior to Jan. 6. “A non-military person probably could have some sort of weird interpretation, but no, to answer your question, that was not part of my plan or the Department of Defense’s plan.”
In case that wasn’t quite unambiguous enough, the investigator added, “To be crystal clear, there was no direct order from President Trump to put 10,000 troops ‘to be on the ready’ for Jan. 6, correct?”
Miller responded, “That’s correct. There was no direct — there was no order from the president.”
The answers were notable in that they shed light on the behind-the-scenes process, but just as importantly, Miller’s testimony discredited related claims from Team Trump. As Amanda Carpenter explained at The Bulwark:
Over time, the lie about Trump sending in the National Guard has taken other forms. For example, Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, has claimed that Trump gave a direct order to have 10,000 National Guard troops “at the ready” on Jan. 6th, but that his request was somehow rejected by Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In February 2021, Meadows told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo, “As many as 10,000 National Guard troops were told to be on the ready by the secretary of defense. That was a direct order from President Trump.”
Trump inflated that figure further, insisting in print that he wanted 20,000 Guard troops, but the idea, he claimed, was rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
We now know that, like most of the former president’s claims, wasn’t true.
To be sure, it won’t help Miller that he stuck to Team Trump’s line during a recent Fox News appearance, and those comments appear to have now been contradicted by what he told congressional investigators.
But as Carpenter’s piece added, “[P]eople can lie to the media without any consequences. Lying to Congress has criminal penalties. This may explain the disparity in Miller’s stories.”