CLAIM: Former President Donald Trump signed an order to deploy 20,000 National Guard troops before his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but was stopped by the House sergeant at arms, at the behest of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
THE FACTS: While Trump was involved in discussions in the days prior to Jan. 6 about the National Guard response, he issued no such order before or during the rioting.
New footage released last week of House lawmakers on Jan. 6 has sparked a resurgence of false claims and conspiracy theories about the insurrection. The videos, recorded by Pelosi’s daughter, showed the congresswoman negotiating with governors and defense officials in an effort to get Guard troops to the Capitol. Some on social media used the occasion to revive baseless claims that Pelosi had stopped a Trump order for tens of thousands of National Guard troops before the event.
“Trump signed an order to deploy 20,000 Guardsmen on J6. It was refused by the House sergeant at arms, who reports to Nancy Pelosi,” said one post that spread on Gettr, Instagram and Twitter. As the AP has previously reported, Trump was not involved in decision-making related to the National Guard on Jan. 6, and Pelosi did not stand in their way. Trump did say during a 30-second call on Jan. 5 with then Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller that “they” were going to need 10,000 troops on Jan. 6, according to a statement Miller provided to a House committee in May 2021. But Miller added that there was “no elaboration,” and he took the comment to mean “a large force would be required to maintain order the following day.” There is no evidence that Trump actually signed any order requesting 10,000 Guard troops, let alone 20,000, for Jan. 6.
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense provided a timeline of the agency’s involvement in preparing for and responding to the attack on the Capitol. The timeline shows no such order, and notes only that on Jan. 3, the president concurred with activating the D.C. National Guard to support law enforcement at the behest of Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser. When the rioting started, Bowser requested more Guard help, on behalf of the Capitol Police. That request was made to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who then went to Miller, who approved it.
Neither Pelosi nor the House sergeant at arms could have stopped an ordered deployment of National Guard troops because Congress doesn’t control the National Guard, legal experts say. Guard troops are generally controlled by governors, though they can be federalized, said William C. Banks, a law professor at Syracuse University. The online claims “make no sense at all,” Banks said, adding, “The House sergeant at arms, he or she is not in the chain of command. Nor is Nancy Pelosi.”
As the newly released footage showed, she and Mitch McConnell, then Senate majority leader, called for military assistance, including the National Guard. The House sergeant at arms does sit on the Capitol Police Board, which also includes the Senate sergeant at arms and the architect of the Capitol. That board opted not to request the Guard ahead of the insurrection, but did eventually request assistance after the rioting had already begun. There is no evidence that either Pelosi or McConnell directed the security officials not to call the guard beforehand, and Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, said after the insurrection that Pelosi was never informed of such a request.
— Associated Press writer Josh Kelety in Phoenix contributed this report.