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Biden rejects general’s 4-star promotion over Jan 6 riot response: WaPo

(Left) U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt. (U.S. Army photo by Monica King) | (Right) President Joe Biden speaks after his recovery from COVID-19 in the Rose Garden at the White House. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
November 02, 2022

President Joe Biden’s administration has reportedly decided against promoting a general to a four-star position over his response to the Jan. 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol, despite the recommendation of his own defense secretary, Lloyd Austin.

The Washington Post reported the Biden administration rejected a recommendation to promote Army three-star Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt to a four-star general officer position and lead the Army Futures Command. Piatt, who currently serves as the Director of the Army Staff, was on a call with Washington, D.C. leaders, Capitol Police officials, the D.C. National Guard leaders and other federal officials on the day protesters and rioters entered the U.S. Capitol and disrupted certification of the 2020 election results for Biden.

According to the Washington Post, Piatt came under particular scrutiny after former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund accused Piatt of saying he couldn’t recommend deploying the D.C. National Guard immediately on Jan. 6, 2021 and raised concerns about the optics of sending in troops.

In a sworn congressional testimony in June of 2021, Piatt said he and other Army officials on the call “all immediately understood the gravity of the situation” but they still needed to develop a plan before sending in troops.

In his testimony, Piatt added, “I communicated this on the conference call, but those on the line were convinced that I was denying their request, despite [me] clearly stating three times that, ‘We are not denying your requests. We need to prepare a plan for when the secretary of the Army gains approval.'”

Army Four-star promotion recommendations are reviewed by senior military officials in the branch, approved by the Army secretary and then reviewed by the defense secretary before they are passed along to the White House, which then sends its nomination to the Senate for approval. According to two defense officials who spoke to the Washington Post, Piatt’s promotion recommendation cleared all those steps and he was backed by Defense Secretary Austin, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Army Chief Of Staff Gen. James McConville but the Biden administration rejected the recommendation.

Austin and Wormuth were both appointed to their positions by Biden himself.

In September, Defense News reported on Sept. 6 that Piatt was still being considered for the four-star role at the Army Futures Command but that Army leaders privately expressed worries about Piatt’s candidacy. Later that day, the White House put forward another officer, Lt. Gen. James Rainey, as its nominee to lead the Army Futures Command.

Rainey has been confirmed and assumed the new command position on Oct. 22.

One defense official who spoke with the Washington Post on condition of anonymity said Piatt “absolutely got jammed up by the politics.” Reflecting on Piatt’s handling of the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol breach, the defense official said “this administration is willing to take risk on a lot of issues, but you could tell this wasn’t going to be one of them.”

A White House spokesperson and Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder both declined Washington Post requests for comment on this matter. A spokesperson for Piatt also declined a request for comment from the Washington Post.