The National Guard said that thousands of troops will remain in Washington, D.C., until mid-March.
Of the approximately 25,000 National Guard troops who were dispatched to the nation’s capital for President Joe Biden’s inauguration, around 7,000 remain and about 5,000 are going to stay, a spokesperson told local Fox 5 on Saturday.
The National Guard will reportedly continue to assist local law enforcement in the wake of the Capitol riot earlier this month that left five dead and multiple people wounded.
“We are providing assistance such as security, communications, medical evacuation, logistics, and safety support to state, district and federal agencies,” the National Guard spokesman told Fox 5 in a statement.
The lingering and unprecedented National Guard presence in Washington, D.C., has become a source of controversy following several stories about how the soldiers have been treated.
Evidence emerged Thursday that the U.S. Capitol Police booted guardsmen from the Capitol and forced them to barrack in a nearby parking garage, which prompted bipartisan outrage. More than 100 guardsmen have also tested positive for COVID-19.
And if you want to use the bathroom, well pic.twitter.com/YXLawaqA0Q
— Alex Horton (@AlexHortonTX) January 22, 2021
“Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service,” a guardsman told Politico. “Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed.”
“All National Guard troops were told to vacate the Capitol and nearby congressional buildings on Thursday, and to set up mobile command centers outside or in nearby hotels, another Guardsman confirmed,” Politico reported. “They were told to take their rest breaks during their 12-hour shifts outside and in parking garages, the person said.”
The parking garage debacle was allegedly the result of “a series of miscommunications around an unprecedented security situation,” according to CNN, with acting Chief of Capitol Police Yogananda Pittman saying in a statement: “I want to assure everyone that, with the exception of specific times on Inauguration Day itself while the swearing-in ceremonies were underway, the United States Capitol Police did not instruct the National Guard to vacate the Capitol Building facilities.”
A House aide familiar with the Capitol Police told CNN: “That’s what my understanding of what happened, is that somebody reached out directly to the National Guard, probably should have gone to the Capitol Police or the architect of the Capitol to do that, and then the National Guard moved. What our understanding is this guy tried to be helpful, and offer up some space and, and somehow that was misconstrued as an order to leave.”
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott nevertheless decided to pull his state’s troops from the capital after the parking garage incident. Abbott was already incensed at the Pentagon’s “loyalty” screenings of guardsmen to determine if their political opinions posed a threat to Biden. “This is the most offensive thing I’ve ever heard,” he said of the investigation, which eventually determined that no internal plot against Biden was present. “No one should ever question the loyalty or professionalism of the Texas National Guard.”
A furious Abbott went so far as to say that he plans never to send the Texas National Guard to Washington, D.C., ever again.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also recalled his state’s troops after blasting the mission in D.C. as “half-cocked” and accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) of treating the National Guard as if they were her “servants.” A source familiar with the security discussions on Capitol Hill told The Daily Wire that “Speaker Pelosi personally met with the Secretary of the Army to demand 14,000 National Guard troops be deployed to the Capitol. But there was no logistical plan provided by the Speaker’s office on where the service members would sleep.”