Guard members were found to have links to ‘fringe right group militias’, US army official and senior US intelligence official say.
Two US army national guard members are being removed from the mission to secure Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, sources said on Tuesday.
Around 25,000 guard members have been deployed in Washington in the aftermath of the Capitol attack on 6 January, in which a mob incited by Donald Trump in his attempt to overturn his election defeat rampaged through Congress, seeking lawmakers to kidnap and kill. Five people died, including a police officer who confronted the mob.
Senior defense officials subsequently indicated concern that attacks on the inauguration might be launched from within the ranks of the guard.
On Tuesday a US army official and a senior US intelligence official, speaking anonymously, told the Associated Press the two guard members had been found to have ties to fringe right group militias. No plot against Biden was found, the officials said.
The mood in the capital remained tense, however, as the Washington Post reported that the FBI had privately warned law enforcement agencies that far-right extremists had “discussed posing as national guard members in Washington and others had reviewed maps of vulnerable spots in the city”.
The army official and the intelligence official spoke on the condition of anonymity due to defense department regulations. They did not say what fringe group the guard members belonged to or what unit they served in.
The National Guard Bureau referred questions to the Secret Service and said: “Due to operational security, we do not discuss the process nor the outcome of the vetting process for military members supporting the inauguration.”
The Secret Service said on Monday it would not comment about whether any national guard members had been pulled from securing the inauguration for operational security reasons.
In the Senate, the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, said the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol was “fed lies” by the president and others.
McConnell’s remarks were his most severe and public rebuke of Trump. The Republican leader vowed a “safe and successful” inauguration of Biden at the Capitol, which is under extremely tight security.
“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of branch of the federal government.”
After Biden’s inauguration on the Capitol’s West Front, which McConnell noted the former president George HW Bush called “democracy’s front porch”, “We’ll move forward.”
Republican senators face a daunting choice over whether to convict Trump of inciting the insurrection, in the first impeachment trial of a president no longer in office.
In opening remarks at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Biden’s nominee for the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, vowed to get to the bottom of the “horrifying” attack on the Capitol.
Mayorkas told the Senate homeland security committee that if confirmed he would do everything possible to ensure “the desecration of the building that stands as one of the three pillars of our democracy, and the terror felt by you, your colleagues, staff, and everyone present, will not happen again”.