Security

One dozen national guard troops pulled from inauguration duties after vetting

Checks involved looking at ties to extremist groups · Two members earlier reportedly removed due to militia links

About 25,000 guard members have been deployed in Washington in the aftermath of the Capitol attack on 6 January

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POLITICS PRESS GROUP

One dozen members of the US national guard have been removed from their duties helping to secure Joe Biden’s inauguration after vetting – which included screening for potential ties to rightwing extremism, Pentagon officials said on Tuesday.

A Pentagon spokesman said the vetting went beyond ties to extremist groups. One guard member was removed from duty after troubling text messages and another had been reported to a tip line, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen Daniel Hokanson, told reporters.

Earlier it was reported that two army national guard members were being removed from the mission. That figure grew on Tuesday afternoon and could expand further as vetting continues by the defense department and FBI.

About 25,000 guard members have been deployed in Washington in the aftermath of the Capitol attack on 6 January, in which a mob incited by Donald Trump in his attempt to overturn his election defeat rampaged through Congress, seeking lawmakers to kidnap and kill. Five people died, including a police officer who confronted the mob.

Senior defense officials subsequently indicated concern that attacks on the inauguration might be launched from within the ranks of the guard.

A US army official and a senior US intelligence official, speaking anonymously, had initially told the Associated Press the first two guard members removed had been found to have ties to fringe rightwing militias. No plot against Biden was found, the officials said.

The federal government has taken the possibility of insider threats seriously after multiple rioters who breached the US Capitol were revealed to have ties to law enforcement and the military.

The mood in the capital remained tense as the Washington Post reported that the FBI had privately warned law enforcement agencies that far-right extremists had “discussed posing as national guard members in Washington and others had reviewed maps of vulnerable spots in the city”.

The army official and the intelligence official spoke on the condition of anonymity due to defense department regulations. They did not say what fringe group the guard members belonged to or what unit they served in.

In the Senate, the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, said the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol had been “fed lies” by the president and others.

McConnell’s remarks were his most severe and public rebuke of Trump. The Republican leader vowed a “safe and successful” inauguration of Biden at the Capitol, which is under extremely tight security.

“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of branch of the federal government.”

After Biden’s inauguration on the Capitol’s West Front, which McConnell noted the former president George HW Bush called “democracy’s front porch”, “we’ll move forward”, the majority leader said.

Republican senators face a daunting choice over whether to convict Trump of inciting the insurrection, in the first impeachment trial of a president no longer in office.

In opening remarks at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Biden’s nominee for secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, vowed to get to the bottom of the “horrifying” attack on the Capitol.

Mayorkas told the Senate homeland security committee that if confirmed he would do everything possible to ensure “the desecration of the building that stands as one of the three pillars of our democracy, and the terror felt by you, your colleagues, staff, and everyone present, will not happen again”.

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