Pentagon officials say 12 Army National Guard members have been removed from securing President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration after vetting by the FBI, including two who posted and texted extremist views about Wednesday’s event.
There was no specific threat to Biden.
Two U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties to right-wing militia groups or posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe group the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard, confirmed Tuesday that the Guard members had been removed and sent home but said only two were for inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. The other 10 were for other potential issues that may involve previous criminal activity, but not directly related to the inaugural event.
The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.”
One troop was removed after fellow troops brought their comments to the attention of Guard officers, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said. Another was pulled out after an anonymous tip.
Ten troops were pulled out during the vetting process “for a number of different reasons,” including for matters that could potentially be flagged in criminal background checks, Hoffman said.
It’s unclear whether they will face discipline when they return home.
A total of 25,000 National Guard troops were actively supporting D.C. and the effort to secure the inauguration as of Tuesday morning, officials told NBC News.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Tuesday that National Guard members must be vetted.
“It’s prudent to make sure that they are being vetted, and anyone who cannot pledge allegiance to their mission and may be pulled by other views needs to not only be removed from this duty — they need to be removed from the Guard.”
Contacted by the AP on Tuesday, the National Guard Bureau referred questions to the U.S. 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 told the AP on Monday it would not comment on if any National Guard members had been pulled from securing the inauguration for operational security reasons.
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Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.