Ex-Trump Official Christopher Miller Backtracks on Blaming Trump for Capitol Riot, Points to 'Conspiracy'

As numerous people have been charged with conspiracy in connection with the deadly Capitol riot, former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller no longer thinks former President Donald Trump was the "unitary factor" in allegedly provoking the crowd.

Appointed in the final months of Trump's presidency, Miller faced scrutiny for delays in deploying the National Guard as the mob stormed the Capitol on January 6. However, Miller's stood by his response to the riot, which he originally blamed former President Donald Trump for inciting, as being in line with procedure.

In the wake of the insurrection, Miller told Vice it was "pretty much definitive" that the riot wouldn't have happened if Trump didn't hold his "Save America" rally that morning.

"The question is: 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—so yes," Miller said in March. "The question is: Did he know that he was enraging the crowd to do that? I don't know."

During Wednesday's hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Democratic Representative Stephen Lynch referenced Miller's quote to Vice and asked if he believed people would have marched on the Capitol without Trump's speech. The former Trump official's answer caught Lynch off guard as Miller said he would like to "modify" his response because they've learned new information about the riot.

"It is not the unitary factor at all," Miller said of Trump's rhetoric. "It seems clear there was an organized conspiracy with assault elements in place."

Miller pointed to the Department of Justice's investigation into the riot, and said it "seems clear there was some sort of conspiracy" that involved an intention to "assault the Capitol."

capitol riot christopher miller blame trump
Former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller backtracked on blaming former President Donald Trump's rhetoric for the Capitol riot on January 6. Miller testifies at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on "Threats to the Homeland" on Capitol Hill on September 24 in Washington, D.C. Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images

Hundreds of people have been arrested and charged for their alleged role in the Capitol riot, and the Department of Justice has pursued conspiracy charges against members of the Oath Keepers, a militia organization, and the Proud Boys, a far-right group. Prosecutors have pointed to messages leading up to and during the riot as evidence the group planned to engage in violence, as well as, their choice of attire that, in some cases, included tactical equipment.

Pushed by Lynch for an answer that aligned with his previous statements, Miller said Trump "clearly offered" that people should march on the Capitol. So it "goes without saying" that Trump's comments "resulted in that," Miller said.

The exchange between the former Trump official and the congressman grew tense with Lynch cutting Miller off to reclaim his time and accusing Miller of a "recent reversal" of his testimony.

"Absolutely not. That's ridiculous," Miller said in response, to which Lynch replied, "You're ridiculous."

On Wednesday, Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, the committee's chairwoman, asked Miller if, in light of the events, he felt Trump fulfilled his duty as president and oath to uphold the Constitution. He answered, "yes," to which Maloney disagreed.

The riot at the Capitol left five people dead and served as the catalyst for Trump's historic second impeachment trial. Since then, much of the criticism Trump faced from even some of his staunchest allies, such as Senator Lindsey Graham, and Republican Senate and House leaders has dissipated.

There are still a few vocal Republicans who believe Trump bears responsibility for the violence that broke out on January 6, causing a rift within the party. On Wednesday, Republicans voted to remove Representative Liz Cheney from her leadership role over her continued criticism of Trump's alleged role in the riot and continued pushing of the narrative that the election was "stolen" from him.

At the January rally, Trump encouraged former Vice President Mike Pence to send the results back to states, a move Pence said he wouldn't do ahead of the convening of Congress. He also advocated for people to go to the Capitol and "cheer on our brave senators" and give them the "kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country."

Trump denied he played a role in the riot, saying that his speech was "totally acceptable," and that his second impeachment was a continuation of the "greatest witch hunt."

Operating under the same belief as Trump's that he was the true winner of the election, some were pushing the former president to declare martial law. His supporters believed that putting the military in control of civilian life was a means of keeping Trump in power or even overturning the election.

Miller told the House committee on Wednesday neither of those outcomes were going to "occur on my watch." However, with talks swirling about a possible military coup or a martial law declaration, he said they were factors in his decision about the appropriate and limited use of the military to support civilian law enforcement on January 6.

"My obligation to the nation was to prevent a constitutional crisis," he told the House.

Aside from a request from Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Miler said there were no calls for Department of Defense support prior to the moment that the Capitol "was on the verge of being overrun." Bowser's request for unarmed National Guard members was approved.

Soldiers were stationed at 30 traffic control points around the White House and subway stations. Keeping them away from the Capitol was intentional, Miller said, to avoid employing the "irresponsible narrative" that members of the Armed Forces were "somehow going to be co-opted in an effort to overturn the election."

As the riot unfolded, some legislators called the White House and reached out to the former president to request additional assistance. Miller told legislators he never spoke to Trump on January 6, in part, because he didn't need to because he had the necessary authority and "knew what had to be done."