When President Trump’s acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller testified before Congress on May 12, he provided important context about why he made the decisions about troop deployments, which at the time, seemed to many Americans obviously too little, too late.
First, it is important to note Miller has been a straight shooter from the beginning. Referring to the speech Trump gave on Jan. 6, 2021, Miller told Vice News in March, “Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and tried to overrun the Capitol, without the president’s speech? I think it’s pretty much definitive that wouldn’t have happened.” During that interview, however, he questioned whether the president knew his words would have that effect.
When Miller testified before Congress on May 12, he said he “stand[s] by my prior observation that I personally believe [Trump’s] comments encouraged the protestors that day.” But he also told Congress that after some more assessment, “It seems clear there was an organized assault element in place that was going to assault regardless of what the president said.”
Miller defended his own decisions and explained that the media narratives leading up to Jan. 6 weighed heavily on his mind as he sought to safely navigate the contentious day while avoiding a constitutional crisis or even the perception of anything that could be erroneously viewed as one.
Reporters immediately began mocking Miller for highlighting this true thing, but he is the one who would know what was weighing on his mind as he decided whether, where, and how many uniformed troops he should order for deployment in our nation’s capital.
He is raising a critically important issue that all corporate media should pay attention to, reflect on, and if they are guilty of baseless scaremongering about mythical military coups, take responsibility for. Corporate media’s irresponsible and dishonest “reporting” during the Trump administration helped not only completely break down Americans’ trust in the news, but it also had an adverse impact on officials’ decisions—and to tragic effect.
Miller said that as he grappled with how engage the military in domestic security, he needed to avoid even the appearance of anything that gave credence to the myth that the president was partaking in a military coup—something for which there was zero, zip, no evidence of occurring and was only indicated in the fever dreams of anti-Trump conspiracy theorists.
“My concerns regarding the appropriate and limited use of the military in domestic matters were heightened by commentary in the media about the possibility of a military coup or that advisors to the president were advocating the declaration of martial law,” Miller testified.
Keep in mind the false media narrative that the Trump administration’s directions caused D.C. police to use excessive force against protesters during the Black Lives Matter riots. Surely on Miller’s mind was the media-driven frenzy in June prompted by Trump walking across Pennsylvania Avenue to observe the damage rioters caused to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Recall that Trump walked to the church after addressing the nation from the Rose Garden on the heels of days of violent riots and looting across the country and in Washington, D.C. With him on that walk was a group of Cabinet officials and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff while in uniform.
He said the letter by former secretaries of defense contributed to his wariness of the appearance of military impropriety in domestic affairs. Miller also had to deal with the false media narrative that the Trump administration used excessive force against protesters during the Black Lives Matter riots.
“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,” he said.
Also, D.C. Mayor Bowser did not want a significant troop presence. “The limited request from the mayor for D.C. National Guard deployment distanced from the Capitol is why I agreed only to deploy our soldiers in areas away from the Capitol, avoiding amplifying the irresponsible narrative that your armed forces were somehow going to be co-opted in an effort to overturn the election,” noted Miller.
Miller’s testimony was not redeeming for Trump. But it does paint a fuller picture. The deceptive media contributed to a narrative that U.S. armed forces could be dangerously co-opted by an unhinged Trump, and that narrative whipped up hysteria that affected Miller’s calculations.
In hindsight, we know more highly visible security was required much sooner to dissuade anyone from pushing the boundaries of law and order. But considering Miller’s testimony, it is obvious how far from making that decision U.S. leaders were, and it is completely understandable.