One week after a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, groups of National Guardsmen were situated inside the building Wednesday, reflecting the stringent security measures being implemented in the wake of the attack and ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.
National Guard officials say about 6,200 soldiers and airmen are on the ground in D.C. to support law enforcement and security efforts at the Capitol. Startling photos on Wednesday morning showed scores of troops sleeping in the halls of the Capitol building as reporters and lawmakers headed to the House for the impeachment vote.
Ahead of the inauguration, on Jan. 20, the guardsmen who will be working with Capitol security will be armed with lethal weapons, Politico and CNN reported.
The D.C. National Guard confirmed in a statement Wednesday that National Guard members are and will be armed, if necessary, as requested by federal authorities and authorized by the Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy.
The statement also addressed the photos of guardsmen resting in the Capitol building. “This area of the Capitol has been designated a rest area for National Guard members when they are on duty but between shifts,” the statement said. “To be clear, this is not where they are lodging when off-duty.”
In early January, there were about 340 guardsmen assigned to manage traffic and assist law enforcement in Washington, according to the D.C. Air National Guard. But when hundreds of pro-Trump rioters broke into the Capitol during the counting of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, forcing Congressmembers to evacuate the House and Senate chambers, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested more help, prompting acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller to bring thousands more guardsmen to the area.
The attack at the Capitol left at least five people dead. It also led Democratic lawmakers to bring forth an article of impeachment against President Trump for inciting the riot. Trump had given a speech before the riot at a rally on the National Mall, where he repeated false claims about the election being stolen from him and urged his supporters to fight back.
The U.S. House will vote on impeachment Wednesday afternoon.
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