William J. Walker has testified how his requests for approval to deploy the National Guard on January 6 remained unanswered. Now it comes down to him to prevent another stampede.
WASHINGTON – President Donald J. As a crowd of Trump supporters stampeded through the Capitol on January 6, William J. Walker, who was commanding the District of Columbia National Guard, watched helplessly, waiting for hours for approval to deploy his troops to help. A badly dominated police force suppressed the deadly riot.
He suspected – and still does – that part of the reason for the delay was that Defense Department officials were overly concerned about the optics of sending in guards against pro-Trump rioters, a move that stipulated special treatment of the mostly white crowd. There was an amount of racial justice in recent days compared to the law enforcement tactics used against protesters in marches.
“We were all disappointed by the tight limits that were placed on us,” Mr Walker said. “57th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s March? No Restrictions. On July 4th? No Restrictions. When the Monuments Were Attacked and We Came Out? No Restrictions to Move the Quick Reaction Force. Ban Jan 5 And for January 6th came.”
On Saturday, as pro-Trump protesters prepare to descend on Washington to rally support for those accused in the January 6 attack, Mr Walker, now the top security official in the House of Representatives, as its new sergeant– Weapons, said things would be different. This time, he is far from a key player and a key player in preparing the Capitals for potential violence.
The rally will be a consequential test for Mr Walker as well as the rest of the security apparatus at the Capitol and across Washington – and he said they will be prepared for whatever unfolds.
“This has my full attention and full attention,” Mr. Walker said of the “Justice for J6” rally, which federal law enforcement officials warned Friday could lead to violence. “We’re going to get through this.”
He and other Capital officials have changed policies based on lessons learned after January 6. A damaging picture of attack preparedness and response has emerged, with police leaders failing to equip officers with much-needed riot gear and intelligence officers. Ignoring or discounting serious threats of violence from Trump supporters.
“The US Capitol police were shocked. They didn’t anticipate anything like that,” Mr. Walker said during a recent interview in his office. “Using the lessons we’ve identified on that sad day, January 6th, will help make sure we don’t have a repeat.”
For one thing, this time around, the National Guard is already standing by to help; The Defense Department on Friday approved the deployment of 100 soldiers.
On Thursday, officials restored the temporary fence around the Capitol perimeter, which was built shortly after the January 6 riots.
“People can come and gather, but they have to do it in a safe way,” Mr Walker said.
Mr Walker, a Chicago native and former special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration who spent decades in the National Guard, was installed in the top security post in the House as part of a nearly complete overhaul of security personnel at the Capitol. After the January Attacks
Lieutenant General Karen Gibson, a military intelligence officer, took over as Sergeant-at-Arms in the Senate; and J. Thomas Manger, a veteran police chief of departments in the Greater Washington area, recently became chief of the Capitol Police. only J. Brett Blanton, who is responsible for maintaining the complex as the Capitol’s architect, remains in the same position he took on January 6. He also continues to serve on the Revised Capital Police Board, the body responsible for security decisions. for the premises. Mr Blanton, a former Iraqi Navy officer with a Bronze Star, has said he was sacked by important security decisions regarding 6 January.
Congress approves a $2.1 billion emergency spending bill to pay for capitol security improvements it thought has stopped fulfilling all requests from top officials, including the National Guard’s rapid response to emergencies To build force involves withdrawing money. Capital. Mr Walker said he was still advocating for the construction of a retractable fence that could “immediately” pop up to prevent breaches of the Capitol.
Mr Walker, the first black person to lead security in the House, said the job came with “an overwhelming sense of pride and pressure”.
“I get it right,” he said, sitting on a couch in his carefully kept office, an American flag pinned to the breast of his dark blue suit. “It could take 232 years for another African American to have a chance.”
He has been vocal about the laxity that influenced the response to the Capitol attack, drawing disdain from some of his colleagues in the process. After Mr Walker testified to Congress in March about how senior military leaders blocked his efforts to quickly dispatch troops to help stop the riot, according to a person familiar with the conversation, the highest-ranking military One of the leaders refused to shake his hand.
It was not the first time in his career that Mr Walker had shed an unblemished light on what he saw as a significant problem in government.
During his time at the DEA, he testified on behalf of black agents in a long-running racial bias trial in which he said the government systematically discriminated against him within the agency. Mr. Walker gained a reputation as a tireless investigator at the agency, whose work took him from Chicago to the Bahamas, Miami, Puerto Rico, Washington and New York.
“I was a completely, fundamentally different person,” Mr Walker said of his career there. “I didn’t abuse, but the arrest was quick.”
In 1986, he was involved in a massive case that led to the conviction of 18 members of the Gambino organized crime family.
During the investigation, Mr Walker helped secure the seizure of nearly $6 million – a record for the DEA at the time – of a Long Island heroin smuggler after he was offering bribes to him and other agents.
“They offered us a million dollars – $250,000 a piece,” said Mr. Walker. “We patted him. I said, ‘Don’t go anywhere.’” He immediately got on a pay phone and called his supervisor to get a warrant for the man’s home.
“If he’s going to give us a million, what does he have left for him?” She wondered.
Derek S., a former chief of the York Drug Enforcement Task Force who worked with Mr. Walker. Maltz Sr. recalled being involved in a large wiretap case in Queens years later that agents believed would net more than $1 million in drugs and guns. At the time, Mr. Walker was the agency’s No. 2 officer in New York.
Mr Maltz said that when he reported the matter to Mr Walker, Mr Walker startled the other agents by saying, “I am coming with you.”
“It is unheard of that a senior executive in the DEA New York office, No. 2, is about to go on the street,” Maltz recalled. After making the arrest, Mr Walker volunteered to take the detained people back for booking, Mr Maltz said.
In the National Guard, Mr Walker faced a different series of challenges as he rose in the ranks. When Trump appointed him as commander of the DC National Guard in 2018, Walker was tasked with ensuring that it responded to national emergencies, including deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, Poland and Saudi Arabia. The soldiers were ready to give.
Colonel Earl G. Matthews, who was a major deputy general counsel for the military At the time, Mr Walker said that the fitness and punctuality requirements immediately tightened.
“He got a lot of complaints, but he held people to a high standard,” Colonel Matthews recalled. “He is a classic man in a conservative mould. He is a very serious man who loves the military and loves the country. Not many people can say that he was appointed by both Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi. He is a straight arrow. But he is also a man who speaks truth to power.”
He did so after January 6 in testimony before a Senate committee, which he described as “unusual” sanctions imposed on the National Guard that day. He detailed how he did not approve the mobilization of troops to respond to the riots for more than three hours after making the request, and said that military officials were not aware of the “optics” of sending troops to the Capitol. expressed concern.
Around 140 police officers were injured in the violent stampede that lasted for nearly five hours. At least five people died during and immediately after the attack.
“Seconds matter,” he testified. “Minute matters.”
Mr Walker said the events of that day, when the mob attacked police as a symbol of racism and white supremacy, paraded through the Capitol, still haunted it.
“It’s a mystery to me how in 2021, we can still have this division and deep-seated hatred,” he said. “If you study some of those arrested, some have just arrived. Some of them just turned out to be Americans. Anyone who goes to America now has a problem with me? It’s troublesome. I I’ve come here.”