When journalists and lawmakers arrived at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, they were surprised to find hundreds of National Guard troops sleeping on
When journalists and lawmakers arrived at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, they were surprised to find hundreds of National Guard troops sleeping on the building’s marble floors.
Riot shields were stacked in orderly piles nearby and firearms rested against black backpacks. Half-empty water bottles sat at the troops’ feet, and some leaned against walls or next to statues of former presidents.
ARMY SECRETARY: AT LEAST 25 DOMESTIC TERRORISM CASES OPENED IN RESPONSE TO CAPITOL RIOT
Those pictured in now-viral photos, however, represent just a fraction of the up to 15,000 active National Guard troops who will be deployed to Washington, D.C., ahead of next week’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
An estimated 2,000 members of the Guard are on Capitol Hill right now. They have deployed in full riot gear and protective equipment and are allowed to use lethal force in self-defense if necessary.
About 6,200 have traveled to the nation’s capital from six nearby states and at least 10,000 are expected to be deployed by Saturday.
“The National Guard is here to support the peaceful transition of power and ensure the safety and well-being of our fellow Americans,” the District of Columbia National Guard’s Maj. Renee Lee told Fox News.
“As soldiers and airmen rotate from shift to shift, they have brief periods to rest in these designated rest areas before moving onto their next posts. As supporting National Guard personnel continue to arrive in Washington, their lodging accommodations are coordinated during in-processing.”
Senior military officials confirmed to Fox News that acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller has delegated authority to Army Sec. Ryan McCarthy to command and control the forces in Washington.
McCarthy has authorized troops around the Capitol building complex to be armed, as security measures heighten in anticipation of another potentially violent confrontation next week.
Anonymous U.S. officials told Reuters that the troops would not be the first line of defense and the outlet noted that law enforcement agencies securing the inauguration have increased their budgets following the Capitol’s siege last Wednesday.
However, National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson said in a telephone news conference on Monday that all National Guard troops will bring their weapons with them.
Despite these stringent precautions, tensions continue to run high on the Hill.
In his first on-camera statement Wednesday, acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen warned any bad actors that authorities would take swift action.
“I want to send a clear message to anyone contemplating violence, threats of violence or other criminal conduct: We will have no tolerance whatsoever for any attempts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 20 that our Constitution calls for,” he said. “We will have no tolerance for any attempts to forcefully occupy government buildings. There will be no excuse for violence, vandalism or any other form of lawlessness.”
On Tuesday, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Peter Gaynor issued a memorandum expanding the period of the 59th Presidential Inauguration National Special Security Event to begin on January 13.
“The Department has received multiple requests, including from Congress and the Mayor of Washington, D.C., to extend the period of the NSSE up to a week in advance of the 59th Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2021,” he wrote. “In light of these requests, recent events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and planned events in Washington, D.C. prior to the inauguration, I have determined that extending the NSSE to begin on January 13, 2021 is necessary to provide for a unified command and control and ensure the safety and security of this special event.”
In a rare letter signed by all eight members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the four-star military officials condemned last week’s assault at the Capitol and warned against further riots.
“As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation,” they wrote. “Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values and oath; it is against the law.”
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Pentagon officials told The New York Times that they were “deeply worried” about protests planned for the inauguration next week — 16 of which are registered and say they will be armed.
Defense officials told Fox News the threat level is much higher than is even being reported in the news media right now.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.