The National Guard presence in Washington continues with 5,200 troops still present on the eve of a QAnon-pushed March 4 conspiracy theory, the day when Trump supporters believe the former president will return to office — triggering talks of more violent protests.
“These guardsmen are well trained, well equipped, and their commanders will, as you might expect, take all the precautions,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told the Washington Examiner.
“They need to make sure that these guardsmen can do the job that they’ve been assigned to do,” he added, without commenting on any specific intelligence.
D.C. National Guard spokesman Capt. Tinashe Machona likewise declined to address specific intelligence or security, other than to say the Guard mission is still slated to end March 12.
“We are continuing the mission as we have since it started,” Machona said of a Guard presence that started after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and at its peak reached 26,000 Guardsmen from all 50 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia to provide inauguration security.
The current Guard force from 30 states and territories, including the District of Columbia, is acting in a support capacity for the Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police, Park Police, and Secret Service.
Kirby said intelligence exists to support the continued mission.
“The belief of the department is that this is still a valid mission for these troops to be doing right now,” he said. “We’re in constant communication with again, Capitol Police, Secret Service, and local law enforcement, as well as city officials about the requirement.”
Machona said the Guard force has not increased ahead of March 4.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reflected on intelligence and the Guard presence during his only Pentagon briefing, on Feb. 19.
“We will continue to assess the threats as we go forward, and decisions will be based upon, you know, what we believe is credible or not,” Austin said.
The Defense secretary said he spoke to Guard members to reaffirm the importance of their mission.
“They know and understand that if our lawmakers need help, they need protection. They stand ready to provide that protection,” Austin said.
Meanwhile, the Capitol Police indicated this week that they will have additional personnel around the Capitol grounds ahead of March 4, and they will coordinate with the National Guard.
Guard members currently patrol a vast fenced-off perimeter that includes the Capitol and several adjacent federal buildings.
Concertina wire tops 7-foot nonscalable fencing, and nearby roads remain closed. The D.C. National Guard would not say when or if the fencing and razor wire would be removed and when roads will reopen.
Acting House sergeant-at-arms Timothy Blodgett indicated in a memo that no protest groups plan to travel to the capital ahead of March 4, which conspiracy theorists contend is the true inauguration date.
The D.C. National Guard said there have been no requests for additional assistance beyond the March 12 deadline, and Kirby said there is no reason Guard members could not depart “en masse” when the mission ends.
“We’re comfortable that we have the number that we need on Capitol Hill right now,” he said. “We’re comfortable in the conversations we’re having with local law enforcement and city officials as well as the Capitol Police.”