Christopher Miller, who was the acting defence secretary during the final weeks of the Trump administration, has now blamed the former president for inciting the Capitol riots on 6 January.
The official said the relationship between Donald Trump’s speech in Washington DC that day and the subsequent insurrection appeared to be “cause-and-effect”, comments which represent a rare instance of a high-ranking Trump official agreeing with the central premise behind the former president’s second impeachment.
Asked in a Vice News interview due to be released this weekend about whether Mr Trump was responsible for the riot, Mr Miller said: “I don’t know but it seems cause-and-effect.
“Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and tried to overrun the Capitol, without the president’s speech? I think it’s pretty much definitive that wouldn’t have happened,” said Mr Miller.
In the interview, a three-minute clip of which was released on Thursday, Mr Miller said some of Mr Trump’s remarks on 6 January morning were indeed “concerning”.
“The question is, did he know he was enraging people to do that (riot)? I don’t know,” he said.
Mr Miller was given charge of the defence department after Donald Trump removed Mark Esper from the post soon after the November 2020 presidential elections.
The former defence secretary has himself has been criticised for his role in the delay in deployment of National Guards on 6 January - criticism he rejected. “It comes back to understanding how the military works—this isn’t a video game,” he said.
Mr Trump’s critics have repeatedly alleged that it was his speech that had incited the riots as he had inspired his supporters to “fight” the election result. Members of Congress had been meeting on 6 January to formally certify Joe Biden’s election victory.
“And we fight. We fight like hell. If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Mr Trump had said, following which his supporters breached the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying the results.
Mr Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on 13 January, before the inauguration of Mr Biden on 20 January. However, the Democratic party’s efforts to find Mr Trump guilty of incitement in a Senate trial were not successful.
Even though Mr Miller had dismissed the blame against him for the delay in deployment of National Guards, the timeline of the response is being examined to ascertain if there was any wrongdoing.
On 3 January, a few days before the Capitol riots, all 10 living former US defence secretaries had released a letter cautioning Mr Miller of the threat to democracy, while advocating for a peaceful transition of power.
Peter Vroom, who is the founder of Stand for Democracy, said the interview “smells a lot like a reputation rehabilitation effort”.
“Chris Miller was willing to be Trump’s ‘acting flunky’ at DOD (Department of Defence) and allowed Trump’s self-installed loyalists to run the show leading up to the insurrection. You own it buddy,” Mr Vroom tweeted.
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