Donald Trump’s acting Secretary of Defense defended the Pentagon’s response to the Capitol insurrection as military officials face scrutiny over the delayed deployment of National Guard troops as law enforcement was overwhelmed by pro-Trump rioters on 6 January.
Mr Miller rejected the “irresponsible commentary from the media” airing concerns that the former president could stage a military coup or impose martial law to block the certification of Electoral College results.
“No such thing was going to occur on my watch. These concerns and hysteria about them factored in my decision,” he told members of Congress during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday.
He also pointed to the Pentagon’s “extremely poor record” supporting local law enforcement during civil rights and anti-war demonstrations. “I was committed to avoiding repeating these scenarios,” he said.
Miltary personnel is to be deployed only as a “last resort,” he said, and that “using them otherwise is contrary to the Constitution and a threat to the republic.”
Mr Miller – who was appointed by the former president as Defense Secretary in November – said that criticism of the Pentagon’s response “reflects inexperience with or a lack of understanding of the nature of military operations” or is politically motivated.
“This isn’t a video game where you can move forces with the flick of a thumb,” he said. “It all takes time … I stand by every decision I made on 6 January and in the following days.”
He told the committee that he did not talk with Mr Trump before or during the assault.
The appearances of Mr Miller and former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen mark the first time that both men have publicly discussed the events on 6 January with lawmakers, as members of Congress investigate how and why federal law enforcement – despite warnings across social media and among intelligence agencies and other federal agencies – failed to hold back hundreds of pro-Trump rioters as they stormed the halls of the Capitol in an attempt to threaten the lawmakers inside.
Committee chair Carolyn Maloney said that the former president “refused to lift a finger” after both men testified that he did not contact them about stopping rioters from breaching the Capitol building.
Mr Trump “betrayed his oath of office, betrayed his constitutional duty,” she said.
Mr Miller said that he approved the full deployment of troops at 3pm.
National Guard service members began arriving at 5:22pm, he said, after 154 DC National Gaurd troops are deployed to support US Capitol Police. Previous reports indicate they arrived at 2.40pm.
After 5pm, Army officials relayed Mr Miller’s approval to DC National Guard commander Maj Gen William Walker, which he has said came more than three hours after he first shared requests from then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund for military support.
He spoke with Vice President Mike Pence, he said, though he added that Mr Pence did not order the clearing of the Capitol as he is not in the chain of command.
Mr Rosen said federal law enforcement officers arrived on the scene by 2:40pm after rioters broke into the building itself.