Sund asked House and Senate security officials for permission to request that the D.C. National Guard be placed on standby in case he needed quick backup.
…House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving said he wasn’t comfortable with the “optics” of formally declaring an emergency ahead of the demonstration, Sund said. Meanwhile, Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger suggested that Sund should informally seek out his Guard contacts, asking them to “lean forward” and be on alert in case Capitol Police needed their help.
…It was the first of six times Sund’s request for help was rejected or delayed, he said. Two days later on Wednesday afternoon, his forces already in the midst of crisis, Sund said he pleaded for help five more times as a scene far more dire than he had ever imagined unfolded on the historic Capitol grounds.
…“I am making an urgent, urgent immediate request for National Guard assistance,” Sund recalled saying. “I have got to get boots on the ground.”
On the call were several officials from the D.C. government, as well as officials from the Pentagon. The D.C. contingent was flabbergasted to hear a top Army official say that he could not recommend that his boss, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, approve the request.
“I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background,” the official said, according to Sund and others on the call.
…Despite Sund’s pleas, the first National Guard personnel didn’t arrive at the Capitol until 5:40 p.m. — after four people had died and the worst was long over.
…On the way home that evening, Sund did as Stenger suggested, calling Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the head of the 1,000-member D.C. National Guard, to tell him that he might call on him for help. “If we can get you leaning forward,” Sund said, “how long do you think it would take to get us assistance?”
Walker said he thought he could send 125 personnel fairly quickly. Over the weekend, Sund had also conferred with D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III, who also had offered to lend a hand if trouble arose.
…Sund said he now suspects that the pipe bombs were an intentional effort to draw officers away from the Capitol perimeter.
…“Violent confrontations from the start. They came with riot helmets, gas masks, shields, pepper spray, fireworks, climbing gear — climbing gear! — explosives, metal pipes, baseball bats. I have never seen anything like it in 30 years of events in Washington.”
…Sund immediately called Contee, who sent 100 officers to the scene, with some arriving within 10 minutes. But at 1:09 p.m., Sund said he called Irving and Stenger, telling them it was time to call in the Guard. He wanted an emergency declaration. Both men said they would “run it up the chain” and get back to him, he said.
Minutes later, aides to the top congressional leaders were called to Stenger’s office for an update on the situation — and were infuriated to learn that the sergeants at arms had not yet called in the National Guard or any other reinforcements, as was their responsibility to do without seeking approval from leaders.
…Unlike anywhere else in the country, the D.C. Guard does not report to a governor, but to the president, so Walker patched in the office of the Secretary of the Army, noting that he would need authorization from the Pentagon to order soldiers to the Capitol.
A top Army official noted the Pentagon still needed authorization from Capitol Police to step foot on Capitol grounds. Sund ticked through details on the severity of the breach, but the call got noisy with crosstalk as officials asked more questions.
…But the Army official, dialed in from across the river at the Pentagon, pushed back, according to Sund, saying he would prefer to have Guard soldiers take up posts around Washington, relieving D.C. police, so that they could respond to the Capitol instead of guardsmen. Sund’s account is supported by four D.C. officials on the call, including D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser.
…At one point, according to a defense official, Contee said, “Let me be clear, are you denying this?” To which the Army official responded that he wasn’t denying the request; he simply didn’t have the authority to approve it.