Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), an Army war veteran spent Wednesday morning giving hundreds of National Guard an “impromptu” tour of the Capitol complex while the House was debate impeaching President Trump for the second time in his presidency.
“We owe the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our democracy more than we could ever possibly repay!” Mast tweeted.
The Florida lawmaker told a reporter that he’s “proud to see” the National Guard troops in the Capitol always doing what they’re asked to do, but added the fact that we’re at this point after last week’s siege is “really beyond comprehension.”
“It’s as sad as anything can make me in this world,” Mast told a reporter, according to Capitol press pool. “I don’t have enough adjectives to describe how disgusted I am with what happened and the point that we’re at — it’s sad, it’s disgusting.”
Hundreds of National Guard troops will be quartered in the Capitol as part of the sharp escalation in security around the complex ahead in the days leading up to the Jan. 20 inauguration, starting with Wednesday’s House votes to impeach Trump.
Reporters, lawmakers, and congressional staff entered the complex Wednesday morning to see Capitol Rotunda and Statuary Hall filled with heavily militarized presence. Troops were seen sleeping in shifts on the marble floors while guarding their M-4 rifles at their sides, some taking pictures of the beautiful statues surrounding the complex while others were eating or playing cards.
National Guard members from around the country were sent to Washington, D.C. after last Wednesday’s Capitol riots during Congress joint session in certifying the Electoral College Votes.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon approved the National Guardsmen protecting the U.S. Capitol to carry lethal weapons in the days leading up to the inauguration due to law enforcement receiving information of credible threats of violence and that protesters could be heavily armed.
“National Guard members are postured to meet the requirements of the supported civil authorities, up to and including protective equipment and being armed if necessary,” the D.C. Guard said in a statement. “The public’s safety is our top priority.”
The units are also being briefed to prepare for the possibility that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) will be used by individuals looking to plot a future attack of the Capitol in the upcoming days ahead of the Inauguration. Along with the Capitol riots, both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee headquarters were reported that IEDs were planted, but didn’t detonate. The briefings from the FBI and D.C. law enforcement believe the IEDs planted last week were not an isolated incident.
As the chaos ensued in the nation’s complex last week, there were only 340 unarmed Guardsmen and were stationed elsewhere to provide traffic control. Ahead of Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser deliberately sought to limit the military’s role in the city’s response to the planned protests. She requested the Guardsmen deployed to the scene be unarmed.
Along with thousands of guardsmen being activated, a perimeter 7-foot “non-scalable” fence has been erected around the Capitol, with similar barriers are being put up around the Supreme Court and several of the surrounding office buildings.
Biden’s transition team told reporters that the former Vice President was briefed by the FBI and Secret Service on Wednesday about potential security threats to his inauguration and “on the preparations being put in place to deter and defend against violent disruptions or attacks.”
Up to 20,000 National Guard troops and other officers nationwide are expected to be deployed at the request of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and other civil authorities.