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Christopher Miller told VICE News that he didn't know whether the president was ultimately responsible for the U.S. Capitol attack, however

By Virginia Chamlee
March 12, 2021 03:56 PM
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Christopher Miller, donald trump
Christopher Miller (left) and Donald Trump
| Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty; MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty

Though he was ultimately acquitted by the Senate on one charge of inciting an insurrection, Donald Trump's former acting secretary of defense believes his words spurred the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Appearing on VICE's eponymous TV series in an episode set to air Sunday, Christopher Miller says it was "pretty much definitive" that the Capitol riots by Trump supporters would not have taken place were it not for the former president.

"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, 55, says in a clip of the episode released Thursday. "The question is: Did he know that he was enraging the crowd to do that? I don't know." 

Asked if he believed Trump, 74, was ultimately responsible for the Capitol riots, in which five people died, Miller says in the clip: "I don't know, but it seems cause and effect, yeah."

Miller tells VICE he found Trump's language during a rally delivered the morning of Jan 6. — in which Trump implored supporters to march to the Capitol, "peacefully and patriotically," but also to "fight like hell" to overturn the election results and prevent the country from being stolen away from them — to be "concerning."

Not long after Trump delivered his speech, a mob of his supporters breached the Capitol building, sending lawmakers including former Vice President Mike Pence into hiding. A Capitol Police officer died.

Christopher Miller
Christopher Miller
| Credit: Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty

In his upcoming appearance on VICE's show, Miller also addresses criticism that the military didn't respond rapidly enough to the breach, ultimately leaving Capitol Police overwhelmed.

"It comes back to understanding how the military works," Miller says. "This isn't a video game. It's not Halo, it's not ... Call of Duty."

Miller pushed back on that criticism in the weeks following the insurrection, releasing a statement on Jan. 15 that the Department of Defense would launch an invention into the events, but that he was "proud of the efforts ... to secure the Capitol" that day.

"The American people deserve transparency about the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2020," the statement read. "The DoD IG Report will be but one of many efforts to provide that transparency and the Department will do everything it can to ensure that review is fulsome, thorough, and holds parties to account.  We are proud of the efforts of DoD personnel to secure the Capitol on January 6th when called upon on and throughout the Presidential Inaugural events next week."

In his VICE interview, Miller says that he did not speak to the president on Jan. 6. When asked how he would have responded had Trump asked him to have the military stand down, Miller says: "I can't image any situation where the Armed Forces the United States would abide by an illegal order ... 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."

Miller previously served as director of the National Counterterrorism Center until November 2020, when he was named acting secretary of defense following Trump's firing of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

The House of Representatives charged Trump on Jan. 13 with inciting an insurrection in the Capitol riots.

Ten House Republicans joined the Democratic majority in voting to impeach — the most such votes against a president by members of his own party — but he was acquitted of the charge by the Senate, though seven Republican senators voted to convict.

Trump is the only president to have been twice impeached, after he was previously charged by the House with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in the Ukraine scandal. The Senate also acquitted him in that trial.