Donald Trump’s former acting defense secretary Christopher Miller blamed the deadly Capitol riot on Trump’s incendiary speech in Washington before the building was stormed by his supporters, he told Vice News in a startling interview revealed Thursday.
“Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and overrun the Capitol, without the president’s speech? I think it’s pretty much definitive that wouldn’t have happened,” said Miller, a hawkish Special Forces veteran chosen by Trump to replace former Defense Secretary Mark Esper days after the 2020 presidential election.
Asked directly by Vice if he thought the president was responsible for the violence at the Capitol, Miller responded: “It seems cause-and-effect, yeah.”
Miller said, however, that Trump may not have realized how extreme the reaction would be to his speech. As for him, Miller confirmed that Trump’s words set off “alarm bells.” He added: “The question is, did he know that he was enraging the crowd to do that? I don’t know.”
Trump had repeatedly claimed American voters’ choice of Joe Biden was illegitimate. He urged his followers on Jan. 6 to move on the Capitol. “And we fight,” he urged. “We fight like hell. If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Listeners quickly began moving toward the Capitol and were soon engaged in hand-to-hand combat with police officers guarding the building.
Miller has come under scrutiny for the Pentagon’s sluggish response to the insurrection as rioters aimed to block congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College votes that day.
Stunned viewers across the nation watched rioters on TV rampage through the Capitol. Yet Pentagon officials didn’t approve a request to deploy troops for nearly 3½ hours, Maj. Gen. William Walker, head of the D.C. National Guard, told a Senate hearing early this month. It was a delay that could have resulted in a massacre or a government takeover by right-wing extremists.
“At that point, seconds mattered; minutes mattered,” Walker testified. It was Miller who eventually approved the deployment of National Guard troops.
Miller insisted that the response time was normal. “It comes back to understanding how the military works. This isn’t a video game, it’s not Halo, Black Ops Call of Duty,” he said. He added that he did not speak to Trump that day.
Miller called the possibility that the military would somehow enable a rebellion or engage in a coup “complete hyperbole” — even if such an order came from a president.
“If it’s antithetical to the Constitution or the Uniform Code of Military Justice, it’s an illegal order and you don’t follow it,” he said.
But he added: “How much stress and strain can be put on the institutions is what I’m hearing asked. We fought the Civil War over this once. The thing is, let’s not do it again.”
Check out a segment of Miller’s interview in the video clip above. The full interview airs at 8 p.m. EDT Sunday on Showtime.