William J. Walker has testified astir however his requests for support to deploy the National Guard connected Jan. 6 went unanswered. Now it falls to him to forestall different rampage.
Sept. 17, 2021, 7:52 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON — As a mob of President Donald J. Trump’s supporters rampaged done the Capitol connected Jan. 6, William J. Walker, who was commanding the District of Columbia National Guard, watched helplessly, waiting for hours for support to deploy his troops to assistance a severely overrun constabulary unit enactment down the deadly riot.
He suspected — and inactive does — that portion of the crushed for the hold was that Defense Department officials were overly acrophobic astir the optics of sending successful the Guard against the pro-Trump rioters, a determination that amounted to peculiar attraction of the mostly achromatic assemblage erstwhile compared to the instrumentality enforcement tactics utilized against protesters astatine radical justness marches successful the caller past.
“We were each frustrated by the choky limits that were placed upon us,” Mr. Walker said. “The 57th day of the march of Dr. Martin Luther King? No restrictions. On July 4? No restrictions. When the monuments were attacked and we came out? No restrictions to determination the speedy absorption force. The restrictions came for Jan. 5 and Jan. 6.”
On Saturday, erstwhile pro-Trump protesters are acceptable to descend connected Washington to rally successful enactment of those charged successful the Jan. 6 assault, Mr. Walker, who is present the apical information authoritative for the House of Representatives arsenic its caller sergeant-at-arms, said things would beryllium different. This time, helium is disconnected the sidelines and a important subordinate successful preparing the Capitol for imaginable violence.
The rally volition beryllium a consequential trial for Mr. Walker — arsenic good arsenic the remainder of the information apparatus astatine the Capitol and passim Washington — and helium said they would beryllium acceptable for immoderate unfolds.
“This has my afloat absorption and implicit attention,” Mr. Walker said of the “Justice for J6” rally, which national instrumentality enforcement officials warned connected Friday could pb to violence. “We’re going to get done this.”
He and different Capitol officials person changed policies based connected lessons learned successful the aftermath of Jan. 6. A damning representation has emerged of the preparations and effect to the attack, including constabulary leaders failing to equip officers with much-needed riot cogwheel and quality officials ignoring oregon discounting superior threats of unit from Trump supporters.
“The U.S. Capitol Police were surprised. They had not anticipated thing similar that,” Mr. Walker during a caller interrogation successful his office. “Using the lessons identified connected that tragic day, Jan. 6, volition assistance america guarantee that we don’t person a repeat.”
For 1 thing, this time, the National Guard is already lasting by to help; the Department of Defense authorized the deployment of 100 troops connected Friday.
On Thursday, officials restored the impermanent fencing astir the Capitol perimeter that had been erected successful the contiguous aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot.
“People tin travel and assemble, but they person to bash it successful a harmless manner,” Mr. Walker said.
Mr. Walker, a Chicago autochthonal and erstwhile peculiar cause astatine the Drug Enforcement Administration who spent decades successful the National Guard, was installed successful the apical information station successful the House arsenic portion of a near-complete overhaul of information unit astatine the Capitol successful the aftermath of the January attack.
Lt. Gen. Karen Gibson, a subject quality officer, took implicit arsenic sergeant-at-arms successful the Senate; and J. Thomas Manger, a seasoned constabulary main of departments successful the Greater Washington region, precocious go the main of the Capitol Police. Only J. Brett Blanton, who arsenic the designer of the Capitol is liable for maintaining the complex, remains successful the aforesaid presumption helium occupied connected Jan. 6. He besides continues to service connected the revamped Capitol Police Board, the assemblage charged with information decisions for the complex. A erstwhile Navy serviceman with a bronze prima from Iraq, Mr. Blanton has said helium was chopped retired of cardinal information decisions regarding Jan. 6.
Congress has approved a $2.1 cardinal exigency spending measure to wage for Capitol information improvements, thought it stopped abbreviated of fulfilling each of the requests from apical officials, including stripping retired wealth to make a speedy absorption unit of the National Guard to respond to emergencies astatine the Capitol. Mr. Walker said helium was inactive advocating for the instauration of a retractable obstruction that could popular up “instantly” to forestall a breach of the Capitol.
The archetypal Black idiosyncratic ever to pb information successful the House, Mr. Walker said the occupation came with a “tremendous consciousness of pridefulness and pressure.”
“I amended get it right,” helium said, seated connected a sofa successful his meticulously kept office, an American emblem pinned to the bosom of his navy bluish suit. “It mightiness beryllium 232 years earlier different African American gets the opportunity.”
He has been outspoken astir the dysfunction that plagued the effect to the Capitol attack, drafting disdain from immoderate of his colleagues successful the process. After Mr. Walker testified to Congress successful March astir however elder subject leaders blocked his efforts to rapidly dispatch troops to assistance quell the riot, 1 of the highest-ranking subject leaders refused to shingle his hand, according to a idiosyncratic acquainted with the interaction.
It was not the archetypal clip successful his vocation that Mr. Walker had shone an unflattering spotlight connected what helium viewed arsenic a important occupation successful the government.
During his clip astatine the D.E.A., helium testified connected behalf of Black agents successful a long-running radical bias suit successful which they said the authorities had systemically discriminated against them wrong the agency. Mr. Walker gained a estimation astatine the bureau arsenic a relentless researcher whose enactment took him from Chicago to the Bahamas, Miami, Puerto Rico, Washington and New York.
“I was a totally, radically antithetic person,” Mr. Walker said of his vocation there. “I didn’t abuse, but the apprehension was quick.”
In 1986, helium was progressive successful a large lawsuit that led to the convictions of 18 members of the Gambino organized transgression family.
During the investigation, Mr. Walker helped unafraid the seizure of astir $6 cardinal — a grounds for the D.E.A. astatine the clip — aft a Long Island heroin trafficker he’d been tracking offered him and different agents a bribe.
“He offered america a cardinal dollars — $250,000 a piece,” Mr. Walker said. “We cuffed him. I said, ‘Don’t spell anywhere.’” He promptly got connected a wage telephone to telephone his supervisor to get a warrant for the man’s house.
“If he’s going to springiness america a million, what’s helium got near for him?” helium wondered.
Derek S. Maltz Sr., a erstwhile caput of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force who worked with Mr. Walker, recalled being progressive successful a ample wiretap lawsuit successful Queens years aboriginal that agents believed would nett much than $1 cardinal successful drugs and guns. At the time, Mr. Walker was the agency’s No. 2 authoritative successful New York.
Mr. Maltz said erstwhile helium briefed Mr. Walker connected the case, Mr. Walker amazed the different agents by saying, “I’m coming with you.”
“It’s unheard-of that a elder executive, No. 2 successful the D.E.A. New York office, is going to spell retired to the street,” Mr. Maltz recalled. After making the arrests, Mr. Walker volunteered to personally transport those successful custody backmost for booking, Mr. Maltz said.
At the National Guard, Mr. Walker encountered a antithetic bid of challenges arsenic helium roseate the ranks. When Mr. Trump appointed him arsenic the commandant of the D.C. National Guard successful 2018, Mr. Walker was tasked with ensuring troops were acceptable to respond to nationalist emergencies, including deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, Poland and Saudi Arabia.
Col. Earl G. Matthews, who was a main deputy wide counsel for the Army astatine the time, said Mr. Walker instantly tightened up fittingness and punctuality requirements.
“He got tons of complaints, but helium held radical to a precocious standard,” Colonel Matthews recalled. “He’s a classical feline successful a blimpish mold. He’s a precise superior feline who loves the Army and loves the country. Not galore radical tin accidental they were appointed by some Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi. He’s a consecutive arrow. But he’s besides a feline who speaks information to power.”
He did truthful aft Jan. 6, successful grounds earlier a Senate committee astir what he called “unusual” restrictions placed connected the National Guard that day. He elaborate however helium had not received support to mobilize troops to respond to the riot until much than 3 hours aft helium had requested it, and said subject officials had expressed concerns astir the “optics” of sending troops to the Capitol.
The convulsive rampage that unfolded implicit astir 5 hours caused injuries to astir 140 constabulary officers. At slightest 5 radical died during the onslaught and its contiguous aftermath.
“Seconds mattered,” helium testified. “Minutes mattered.”
Mr. Walker said the events of that day, with a mob attacking constabulary arsenic symbols of racism and achromatic supremacy were paraded done the Capitol, inactive haunted him.
“It’s a enigma to maine however successful 2021, we could inactive person this part and deep-seated hatred,” helium said. “If you survey immoderate of those that were arrested, immoderate conscionable got here. Some of them conscionable became American. Somebody who conscionable gets to America has a occupation with me? That’s troublesome. I’ve been here.”