Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller has authorized thousands more National Guardsmen from six states to help civil authorities maintain order after pro-Trump rioters descended on Washington and breached the U.S. Capitol, according to two people familiar with the discussions.
Up to 6,200 Guardsmen began arriving Wednesday night and will continue to pour into the city through Sunday, the people said. They will not be armed, and will be spread throughout the city, according to a defense official, who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on the subject.
The intent is not to have all the Guardsmen, who will be mobilized for up to 30 days, on the streets of Washington, D.C., at once, the official said. At any one time many personnel will be stationed at the D.C. Armory. As of Thursday morning, several hundred fanned out across the city.
After the Pentagon on Wednesday approved an initial request from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to send in more members of the D.C. National Guard — opting to mobilize all 1,100 of them — top Pentagon leaders huddled to decide whether to take additional action on Wednesday night, the official said. Miller and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy ultimately decided to mobilize additional personnel due to the severity of the situation.
Some of the governors had already announced plans to deploy additional Guardsmen to the capital on Wednesday night. Miller’s order officially gives these troops additional authorities to assist law enforcement.
Miller activated the Guardsmen under Title 32 Section 502F, which provides federal funding for the mission. The Guardsmen operating in D.C. will be under the command of federal authorities, specifically McCarthy, the people said.
Roughly 500 Guardsmen from Virginia deployed to Washington on Wednesday night, with an additional 1,500 set to arrive by Friday. About 500 personnel from Maryland were arriving on Thursday. Up to 1,000 each from Pennsylvania and New York were set to arrive by Sunday. Another 200 from Delaware would arrive by Friday, and 500 from New Jersey.
The deployment caps an intense few days in which D.C. and federal officials argued over whether and how to deploy U.S. troops in the capital. At Bowser’s request Monday, the Pentagon had mobilized 350 D.C. National Guard troops ahead of planned protests, but those troops are tasked with crowd control and have not been at the Capitol.
After protesters headed to the building on Wednesday, Bowser requested additional Guardsmen. Army officials initially expressed concern, because part of the original agreement was to keep Guardsmen away from the Capitol on Wednesday. Officials have messaged for weeks that the military will have no role in determining the outcome of the election.
It took defense officials about 30 minutes on Wednesday to work through questions about Bowser’s request for additional support, make a determination to grant it and get the approval of the defense secretary, McCarthy said during a press conference with the mayor.
“A lot of questions were asked, little bit of confusion but as we worked through it we made the determination about a half hour later to mobilize the entire D.C. National Guard,” McCarthy said.
Miller spoke with Trump multiple times this week about the mayor’s Guard request, said DoD Chief of Staff Kash Patel. During those conversations, Trump conveyed that Miller should take “any necessary steps to support civilian law enforcement requests in securing the Capitol and federal buildings.”
Miller spoke with Vice President Mike Pence and congressional leaders about the situation Wednesday night, the defense secretary said in a statement.
Top Pentagon officials were hesitant to deploy military troops for protest response after backlash this summer, when National Guardsmen helped clear Lafayette Square of peaceful protesters in order for Trump to stage a photo op in front of a church holding a Bible. Top officials, including Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley, have said repeatedly in recent weeks that the military would have no role in determining the outcome of the election.
On Monday, the Guard announced that its personnel would be unarmed and would not wear body armor.
Pentagon authorizes more than 6,000 National Guardsmen to help law enforcement in D.C. The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Politico.