Thousands of guardsmen to stay in D.C. through Biden inauguration

The full force will arrive in Washington by Sunday

National Guard troops march past the Dirksen Senate Office Building on the U.S. Capitol grounds on Thursday, the day after a mob stormed the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
National Guard troops march past the Dirksen Senate Office Building on the U.S. Capitol grounds on Thursday, the day after a mob stormed the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 7, 2021 at 5:18pm

Thousands of National Guard troops will be deployed to Washington, D.C., for the next 30 days, through the coming inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, following a riot at the Capitol Wednesday that left four dead and dozens injured. 

Some 6,200 Guard troops from units in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey will be deployed to secure the Capitol. The full force will arrive in Washington by Sunday. 

The deployment follows Wednesday’s rioting by a pro-Trump mob that breached the Capitol and stormed the building, forcing lawmakers, staff and journalists to take cover and prompting the evacuation of congressional leaders and Vice President Mike Pence. 

Over 741 guardsmen are already patrolling Washington, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said on a call with reporters Thursday, and 30 checkpoints have been set up in and around downtown to slow the flow of vehicular traffic into the city from Maryland. 

The guardsmen, who will work rotating 12-hour shifts with 850 soldiers per shift for the next month, are operating under federal authority.

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Pentagon officials faced sharp criticism from lawmakers Thursday that they did not respond quickly enough to rioting at the Capitol, taking hours to send in the National Guard. 

“There was tremendous confusion coming out of the Capitol,” McCarthy said, “and we moved very quickly to get Congress back in session. But the Capitol Police were overrun and it was difficult to read their disposition.” 

In the early afternoon on Wednesday, about two hours after rioters had breached the Capitol, the entirety of the D.C. National Guard was mobilized and 1,100 soldiers were deployed. 

According to McCarthy, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller approved the deployment. McCarthy told reporters that Miller had been instructed by President Donald Trump in the days leading up to the riot to assist as necessary with civil unrest. 

McCarthy pushed back on reports that Pence stepped in to deploy the Guard. “The vice president is not in the chain of command,” McCarthy said, “and we were in constant contact with the White House throughout the day.”

According to McCarthy, part of the reason that security services were unprepared for Wednesday’s events was a lack of usable intelligence. 

Estimates of crowd size were “all across the board,” he said, ranging from 2,000 to upwards of 80,000 people. 

Assistant Defense Secretary for Homeland Defense, Kenneth Rapuano, who was also on Thursday’s call, said there were “no indications of significant violent protests” in the lead up to the deadly riot.