Presidential inaugurations are normally high-security events, with metal detectors at key entry points, restricted ID-only zones and National Guard supplementing local and federal law enforcement. But the level of precautions this year is unprecedented.
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On Inauguration Day on Wednesday, the Mall will be shut down to visitors, and only a small number of attendees will be permitted to watch Biden take the oath of office and deliver his first speech as president.
The measures reflect restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus and heightened security after a mob of Trump supporters breached the Capitol two weeks ago, sending lawmakers into hiding and leaving five people dead, including a police officer.
Pentagon officials on Tuesday said a dozen members of the US National Guard have been removed from duty helping secure the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden after vetting, which included screening for potential ties to right-wing extremism.
A 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, Army General Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters.
“We are, out of an abundance of caution, taking action and immediately removing them from the line of duty at the Capitol and the events taking place,” said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.
On Sunday, acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said the FBI was assisting the US military in vetting more than 25,000 National Guard troops being deployed to assist in protecting the US Capitol for potential security concerns ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration of Biden.
The vetting has been going on since last week, and the FBI is also working to see if any current service members took part in the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump.
Last week, the Virginia National Guard said that Jacob Fracker, an off-duty police officer charged in connection with the violent riots at the Capitol, was a corporal in the state’s Guard and serves as an infantryman.