National Guard Members Removed From Inauguration Security Over Ties to Right-Wing Militias

At least 12 National Guardsmen were reportedly removed Tuesday from the protection force listed to secure President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

An Army official and a senior U.S. intelligence official told the Associated Press Tuesday morning that two guardsmen have ties to a right-wing militia group. The officials spoke to the AP under the condition of anonymity because of the Defense Department's media regulations.

Later Tuesday afternoon, the AP reported that 10 additional National Guardsmen were removed from the mission.

The officials did not name the militia group that the men belonged to but noted that they did not find any plots against the president-elect.

At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, General Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said the two guardsmen were removed because of "inappropriate comments or texts that were put out there" on social media.

"Just out of an abundance of caution, we want to make sure that there are no issues at all," Hokanson said. The general added that the two men were in Washington, D.C., but have since been sent home.

The removals come as officials fear that some of the people assigned to protect Washington may pose a threat to Biden or other attendees at Wednesday's inauguration ceremony.

In an email to Newsweek, the National Guard Bureau referred questions about the removed guardsmen to the U.S. Secret Service.

The bureau said, "Due to operational security, we do not discuss the process nor the outcome of the vetting process for military members supporting the inauguration."

The bureau added that it is standard routine for the bureau and the FBI to vet the military troops supporting presidential events.

"While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital," said Nahaku McFadden, media operations chief for the bureau. "This type of continuous vetting often takes place for significant security events—particularly when individuals are in proximity to the president."

McFadden added that the National Guard is providing additional training to troops to detect potential insider threats.

Washington DC Prepares For Inauguration Of Joe
Members of the National Guard patrol the streets on January 19 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images/Getty

David Gomez, a former FBI national security supervisor, previously told the AP that the bureau's vetting process would involve running people's names through multiple databases and watch lists to see if they connect to any prior investigations or terrorism-related concerns.

Although McFadden noted that the procedure of vetting troops is standard, he said the number of troops in attendance was unique.

Amid concerns about another violent attack following the Capitol riot on January 6, nearly 25,000 members of the National Guard have come to Washington from across the U.S. ahead of Biden's swearing-in.

The number of guardsmen in attendance surpasses that at President Donald Trump's ceremony in 2017 and former President Barack Obama's in 2013 combined.

On Tuesday, a Secret Service spokesperson told Newsweek, "In order to maintain critical operational security surrounding the 59th presidential inauguration, the U.S. Secret Service and our law enforcement partners will not be commenting on the means and methods used to conduct the agency mission, inclusive of protective intelligence matters."

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates how many troops are deployed to Washington, D.C. compared to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Washington D.C. Troops for Inauguration Day Statista
Statista

Update 1/20/21: This article was updated to include an inforgraphic.