United States National Guard troops deployed in Washington, D.C., have been told to prepare for the possibility that individuals plotting violence in the Capitol during and around President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration may use improvised explosive devices like those found during the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
Two Guardsmen who were reportedly briefed on the matter told Politico that law enforcement officials believe the pipe bombs discovered at the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters were not isolated events. The individual(s) who planted those bombs have not yet been identified by authorities. The FBI has posted a $50,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the perpetrators.
In anticipation of armed protests on Inauguration Day, National Guard troops have been authorized to bear arms in the Capitol. A "significant majority" of troops are carrying M-4 rifles and many are also armed with M-9 handguns, Politico reports.
"Our primary objective is to provide support to local authorities," said Guard spokesperson Tracy O'Grady Walsh. While deployed, the Guard will be tasked with crowd management, traffic control, parking coordination and medical and logistical support to local authorities.
"The public's safety is our top priority," she added.
Local and federal officials say as many as 20,000 National Guard troops will be deployed in the Capitol for security purposes. The District of Columbia has received commitments from the Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York National Guards to send reinforcements, WTTG-TV reports. Other states will send troops as well.
In the week since the Jan. 6 riots, the Guard has constructed a 7-foot tall non-scalable wall around the perimeter of the Capitol building. Armed troops are stationed in the halls of the Capitol building.
Democratic lawmakers say they have been briefed by law enforcement on three plans for demonstrations in the Capitol that could potentially turn violent. One of these plans involves a call to arms for thousands of armed "patriots" who want to attempt to surround the Capitol building and prevent Democratic lawmakers from entering, according to Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) who described the briefing to CNN.
On Wednesday, the Daily Beast reported that the Secret Service has issued an intelligence briefing warning of additional armed protests as well. The briefing, which was unclassified but not distributed outside of law enforcement, states that one demonstration is scheduled to take place before the inauguration and that the organizers were encouraging attendees to bring weapons.
Federal and local law enforcement and the National Guard are working to ensure the safety of everyone in Washington, D.C., and other state capitals that may experience protests.