One dozen national guard troops pulled from inauguration duties after vetting
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”.
Militia groups involved in the 6 January insurrection want to stage another attack around Joe Biden’s upcoming address to Congress, aiming to “blow up” the complex and kill lawmakers, the acting chief of the US Capitol police has warned. In alarming testimony to a House subcommittee, Yogananda Pittman said that threats were circulating that directly targeted the president’s first formal speech to a joint session of Congress. A date for the event has not yet been announced.
Sen. Mitt Romney predicted Tuesday that former President Donald Trump would easily win the Republican presidential nomination if he seeks the White House again in 2024. In a New York Times-DealBook virtual interview, the Utah Republican said he was “sure” the former president would play a role in the GOP in the coming years — assessing that Trump has “by far the largest voice and a big impact in my party.”
A federal judge in Texas on Tuesday blocked President Joe Biden’s 100-day moratorium on most deportations, the latest blow to Biden on one of his signature campaign promises. U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, in a late-night ruling, granted a preliminary injunction that blocks the moratorium the Biden administration announced on its first day. It’s a victory for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the 100-day pause, which was announced in a memorandum from the Department of Homeland Security three days into the Biden administration.
Joe Biden is set to mark the latest tragic milestone of Covid deaths in the US on Monday night, with a candlelit commemoration and moment of silence for the 500,000 who will have lost their lives. With the heart-wrenching landmark approaching, the White House is preparing for a sunset ceremony focused on those who have died and their grieving loved ones. With his wife, Jill Biden, Vice-president Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, by his side, the president is expected to echo the commemoration held for Covid victims at the Lincoln Memorial the night before his inauguration. He said then: “To heal we must remember.”