Duckworth demands Pentagon investigate if troops participated in Capitol ‘coup attempt’

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Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat and Iraq War veteran, on Monday demanded the Pentagon investigate allegations that troops and military retirees played a role in the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

In a letter to acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller obtained by POLITICO, Duckworth asked the Pentagon to cooperate with federal agencies and the Capitol Police to investigate active-duty or retired service members who played a role in what she called a “coup attempt.”

Duckworth’s letter came in response to what she called “deeply troubling” reports that active troops and retirees took part in the “violent insurrection.”

“If accurate, it would be a disgraceful insult to the vast majority of servicemembers who honorably serve our Nation in accordance with the core values of their respective Services,” Duckworth wrote in the letter.

If any such individuals are identified, Duckworth urged Miller to take “appropriate action to hold individuals accountable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

“Upholding good order and discipline demands that the U.S. Armed Forces root out extremists that infiltrate the military and threaten our national security. Thank you in advance for prioritizing my urgent request,” Duckworth wrote.

Duckworth is one of many lawmakers pressing the Pentagon for answers following the violent breach of the Capitol.

Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York slammed what they said was the “lack of urgency” in response to the riot. The trio called the response time by D.C. National Guard “totally inadequate” and pressed Miller in a letter on Monday to detail how the Pentagon could ensure a faster military deployment in future emergencies at the Capitol.

“In the aftermath of the attack, serious questions must be answered regarding the lack of threat intelligence, physical security of the Capitol Buildings, and readiness of our Armed Forces and federal agencies to respond,” the three senators wrote.

“In the future, emergency deployments of federal law enforcement and the U.S. Armed Forces to the U.S. Capitol must be significantly faster,” they added. “We request that you present to the Congress the required changes to federal law and Department of Defense authorities, operating procedures, and regulations in order reduce the response time to under an hour for a significant emergency deployment of the U.S. Armed Forces in support federal authorities within the National Capital Region.”

In the House, Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Jason Crow (D-Colo.) requested Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy brief the House Armed Services Committee by Friday on the Guard’s role in responding to the riot and plans for deploying the Guard in the nation’s capital for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Crow also released a summary of a phone call with McCarthy on Sunday in which the Army secretary said the Pentagon “is aware of further possible threats posed by would-be terrorists in the days up to and including Inauguration Day” and is coordinating with local and federal law enforcement.

The congressman also sought assurances that troops handling security for the inauguration are screened for possible sympathies with “domestic terrorists.”

In a letter similar to Duckworth’s, Gallego and California Democrat Sara Jacobs urged Miller to work with federal authorities to identify current or former members of the military involved in the riot and, if applicable, charge them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“In attacking the Capitol, the Congress, and the Constitution that they swore to protect, any current or former military members who may have participated have disgraced themselves and committed serious crimes against the people of the United States,” the pair wrote. “Any such individuals should have the book thrown at them for violating their oaths and duty to the nation.”

This is not the first time DoD has been forced to reckon with the prevalence of extremism in the ranks. Last year, the department was rattled by an alleged plot by a young soldier to coordinate with a neo-Nazi group to attack and kill members of his own army unit.

A 2019 Military Times survey found that more that 36 percent of active-duty troops said they had personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism within the ranks, a 14 percent increase from a similar survey the year before.

In response to the riots, Miller on Wednesday authorized 6,200 National Guardsmen from six states and the District of Columbia to respond to unrest in the days leading up to inauguration.

Lawmakers, D.C. and state officials have traded barbs with DoD over who is to blame for the security failure at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Sunday said he was baffled by the response he received while seeking approval from DoD for his Guardsmen to enter D.C.

However, top defense officials have said that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser deliberately limited the Pentagon’s role in the riot response ahead of Wednesday. After getting a flurry of requests from Bowser and lawmakers on Wednesday for additional support, DoD officials worked quickly to send backup, they said.

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