Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper
c.2021 The New York Times Company
WASHINGTON — Twelve National Guard members have been removed from duties related to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, two of them for expressing anti-government sentiments, Defense Department officials said on Tuesday.
Two of the members were removed over texts and social media posts that made threatening comments toward political officials, Pentagon officials said. They declined to specify the exact nature of the threats.
“I will share that they were inappropriate,” Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters.
Two officials described the texts as broad in nature — not directed specifically at Biden or Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, but rather at lawmakers as a whole. One of the service members removed, the officials said, made a point of expressing support for President Donald Trump in addition to making menacing comments.
Hokanson said that one case was reported by the service member’s chain of command and that the other was flagged through a tip to a hotline.
The other 10 National Guard members were removed for a wide variety of issues — criminal investigations, domestic abuse or outstanding complaints. All 12 members have been sent home, officials said.
The announcement of the removals came as the Pentagon was intensifying efforts to identify and combat white supremacy and other far-right extremism in its ranks, and as federal investigators sought to determine how many military personnel and veterans joined the violent assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6. The effort seems intended to remove any members whose social media posts or past actions raise suspicion.
Hokanson noted that the authorities were not taking any chances one day before the inauguration and as investigators have expressed concerns that some extremists may try to impersonate National Guard members by wearing military uniforms.
“At this point we don’t have the time to run down every single piece of information,” he said. “But there’s enough information for us to determine to remove them from the Capitol.”