12 National Guard members removed from Biden inauguration duties
The Army National Guard has removed 12 members from their role in President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration security, according to National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson.
Two individuals were flagged for “inappropriate comments or texts” — one identified through their chain of command and another through anonymous reporting — while an additional 10 were identified by the FBI through “standard” vetting done on participants before all inaugurations, Hokanson told reporters on Tuesday.
“If there’s any identification or anything whatsoever that needs to be looked into, out of an abundance of caution, we automatically pull those personnel off the line and make sure that they’re not part of the mission set, and in certain cases, we make sure that we get them sent home,” Hokanson said.
The Associated Press reported earlier on Tuesday that the two Guardsmen were being sent home after they were found to have ties to fringe right group militias, though no plot against Biden was found.
Top Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the group of 10 other individuals were flagged during the FBI vetting process “for a number of different reasons unrelated to the events here.”
“These are vetting efforts that identify any questionable behavior in the past or any potential link to questionable behavior not just related to extremism,” Hoffman said alongside Hokanson. “It’s a lot of looking back at anything that could potentially flag in a criminal history check, anything that could come up in a civilian database that’s being scrubbed by our partners. We’re not taking any chances. Anything flagged, if there’s any reason that somebody’s name is brought to the attention of the command, they’re being removed from the line.”
Hoffman added that the Pentagon will “ask questions later and ascertain whether any action needs to be taken” by law enforcement or the individual’s chain of command.
The two officials would not say what criteria would flag a Guardsman deployed for the inauguration.
There’s no “handbook on what are our thresholds [are] for inappropriateness at this point,” Hoffman said.
“If our law enforcement partners flag an individual … we’re not even asking what the flag was, we’re just removing them.”
About 25,000 National Guard service members have been deployed to D.C. to assist with security ahead of the Wednesday inauguration following the violent insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. A pro-Trump mob overwhelmed police and broke into the Capitol building after Trump encouraged rallygoers to march to the building while lawmakers met to certify Biden’s Electoral College win.
The attack resulted in five deaths and more than 100 arrests thus far, with a handful of current or former military personnel linked to the riot and charged, including Jacob Fracker, an off-duty police officer who was a corporal in the Virginia National Guard.
The FBI has since begun to run background checks on the Guardsmen activated for the inauguration, a move stemming from fears among defense officials that those responsible for security at the event could participate in an insider attack.
Hoffman said that information that would mark an individual for inauguration duty removal would not necessarily get them booted from the service.
“It’s a piece of information and at this point of time we don’t have the timeframe in which to run down every single piece of information and determine that an individual should not be a part of the military or not,” he said.
The officials could not say how many of the 25,000 Guardsmen had been investigated by the FBI thus far, though the Bureau has assured the Pentagon it would complete all vetting prior to the Wednesday event.
Updated at 5:49 p.m.