WASHINGTON — Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, a former commander of Fort Drum and now serving as the director of Army Staff, has come under fire that the Pentagon dragged its feet to send the National Guard to assist with last Wednesday’s Capitol riots.
Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund accused Gen. Piatt of refusing the deployment to the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday because the general — former commander of the 10th Mountain Division — didn’t like the optics of sending the National Guard while pro-Trump rioters sieged the building, according to multiple media reports on Monday.
In an interview, Mr. Sund told the Washington Post the Pentagon refused to act immediately to send the National Guard reinforcements in numerous calls while the rioters were about to storm the Capitol.
Criticism of the Pentagon by the District of Columbia and Capitol Police officials has centered on a phone call at about 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, when Gen. Piatt allegedly told a pleading Mr. Sund that there were concerns about sending the D.C. Guard into the Capitol in response to what was a mounting emergency, according to the Post.
Mr. Sund, who has resigned as the Capitol Police Chief, said that he called the Pentagon six times pleading for National Guard assistance during the riot, according to media reports.
In the Washington Post story, Mr. Sund recalled Piatt saying: “I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing in a police line with the Capitol in the background.”
The Capitol Police have jurisdiction over the Capitol and Congress.
On Tuesday, Gen. Piatt denied the former police chief’s account of the phone calls and how and when the National Guard was deployed to the Capitol on Wednesday.
The top Army official contradicted what Mr. Sund told the Washington Post occurred on a conference call between officials. He told local officials that he didn’t have the authority to grant the deployment.
In a statement, Gen. Piatt said he stayed on the phone while Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy got approval for the deployment from Acting Secretary of the Army Christopher Miller to request approval.
Gen. Piatt told local officials that he didn’t have the authority to grant the deployment. He said he worked with the call participants to develop a deployment plan.
The Pentagon and Washington, D.C. officials have blamed each other for the failure to protect the Capitol, Congressional members and their staffs and the violence that occurred when marauders took over the building during the riot.
Five people died, including a Capitol police officer, during the siege.
As the result of Wednesday’s riot, as many as 15,000 members of the National Guard could be sent to protect the Capitol during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.