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National Guard arms troops providing Capitol security

National Guard arms troops providing Capitol security
© Greg Nash

National Guardsmen providing security at the U.S. Capitol ahead of President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenCornyn, Sinema to introduce bill aimed at addressing border surge Harris to travel to Northern Triangle region in June Biden expected to formally recognize Armenian Genocide: report MORE’s inauguration are now armed, the D.C. National Guard said.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyPence pleaded with military officials to 'clear the Capitol' on Jan. 6: AP Alarming threat prompts early exit, underscoring security fears Five takeaways from dramatic Capitol security hearing MORE authorized the troops to be armed at the request of federal authorities, the D.C. Guard said in a statement. The troops were armed as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, it added.

“National Guard members are postured to meet the requirements of the supported civil authorities, up to and including protective equipment and being armed if necessary,” the D.C. Guard said. “The public’s safety is our top priority.”

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More than 20,000 National Guardsmen are now expected to be in Washington for the inauguration, D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said at a news conference Wednesday. That's up from the 15,000 troops military officials said earlier this week were authorized for the event. The final number will be set by the Secret Service, Contee added.

Reporters entering the Capitol on Wednesday — when the House will vote to impeach President TrumpDonald TrumpUS gives examples of possible sanctions relief to Iran GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House passes bill aimed at stopping future Trump travel ban MORE for “willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States” — reported hundreds of service members quartering inside the building with firearms at their sides.

The D.C. Guard stressed in a statement later Wednesday the troops seen resting in the Capitol building were doing so in designated areas in between shifts while on duty, but that the Capitol is "not where they are lodging when off-duty."

"Being present is the first step in ensuring the safety of our citizens and our nation's Capitol," the Guard said in a statement. "Our security personnel work in shifts and rest when they can as others stand watch."

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National Guard members from around the country started flooding Washington, D.C., after last week’s insurrection at the Capitol during Congress’s joint session to certify Biden’s victory in the presidential election.

Five people died in the riots — including a Capitol Police officer — and lawmakers, staffers, journalists and Vice President Pence were forced to hide in secure locations while mobs sieged the building.

Lawmakers have since been briefed on several other security threats ahead of Biden’s inauguration.

During last week’s mayhem at the Capitol, just 340 unarmed Guardsmen were elsewhere in D.C. providing traffic control. Before the riot, local officials and the Pentagon had sought to minimize Guard involvement in responding to any protests after heavy criticism of the response to June’s racial justice protests.

But after the protests turned into insurrection last week and with credible threats of further violence ahead, thousands of Guardsmen were activated. They also erected a seven-foot “non-scalable” fence around the Capitol and other nearby government buildings.

About 10,000 National Guard members expected to be in D.C. by Saturday, National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson said Monday.

Updated at 4:54 p.m.