12 Guard members pulled from inauguration duty
WASHINGTON — Twelve National Guard members have been removed from securing President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration after vetting by the FBI, including two who made extremist statements in posts or texts about the Wednesday event, Pentagon officials said. There were no specific threats to Biden.
Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in.
Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home but he said only two cases were for inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 were for other potential issues that may involve previous criminal behavior or other activities, but were not directly related to the inaugural event.
Their removal from the massive security presence at the nation’s capital comes as U.S. defense officials have been worried about a potential insider attack or other threat from service members after the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by Trump supporters. The FBI has been working to vet all 25,000 National Guard members in town. Officials have said the Pentagon has found no intelligence that would indicate an insider threat.
But the FBI has also warned law enforcement officials that right-wing fringe groups could pose as Guard members, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter.
Neither Hokanson nor Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman would provide details on the comments or texts made by the two Guard members. Speaking at a Pentagon press conference, Hokanson said one was identified by his chain of command and the other through an anonymous tip.
“Much of the information,” Hoffman said, “is unrelated to the events taking place at the Capitol or to the concerns that many people have noted on extremism. These are vetting efforts that identify any questionable behavior in the past or any potential link to questionable behavior, not just related to extremism.”