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Guard troops back inside Capitol after furor over move to parking garage

Senators expressed outrage after troops were asked to move their rest area and some ended up in a parking garage. The troops later returned.
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National Guard troops were allowed back into the Capitol to rest after some had been moved to a nearby parking garage, officials said.

Senators expressed outrage Thursday evening after Politico reported that Capitol Police had asked the troops to move their rest area and some ended up in the garage at the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building adjacent to Union Station, just outside the Capitol grounds.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, said that by 10:30 p.m., Capitol Police had apologized to the Guard personnel, who had been allowed back into the complex Thursday night.

Image: Protests Expected In Washington DC Ahead Of Biden Inauguration
National Guard soldiers rest on cots in the Visitors Center of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 17, 2021 in Washington, D.C.Samuel Corum / Getty Images

Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, however, said in a statement Friday that they did not tell the troops to leave the Capitol and that all of them were back inside the building complex as of Friday morning.

“I want to assure everyone that, with the exception of specific times on Inauguration Day itself while the swearing-in ceremonies were underway, the United States Capitol police did not instruct the National Guard to vacate the Capitol Building facilities," Pittman said. She added that the troops were "notified and encouraged" to reoccupy the Capitol and its visitors center at 2 p.m. Wednesday, after the swearing-in had ended.

“Over the past several days, the U.S. Capitol Police has been working tirelessly with its congressional stakeholders to identify appropriate accommodations across the entire Capitol complex for their use," Pittman said, adding "It was brought to our attention early today that facility management with the Thurgood Marshall judicial office building reached out directly to the National Guard to offer use of its facilities."

Army Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead, commander of the inauguration task force, confirmed that troops were out of the parking garage and back in the Capitol and will take breaks near Emancipation Hall going forward.

Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost her legs after the helicopter she was in was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2004, said that forcing the troops out of the Capitol was "unreal."

"I can’t believe that the same brave servicemembers we’ve been asking to protect our Capitol and our Constitution these last two weeks would be unceremoniously ordered to vacate the building," Duckworth wrote in a tweet.

And President Joe Biden on Friday called National Guard head Gen. Daniel Hokanson and expressed “empathy” for what the Guard members went through, a White House official said.

"He talked about his own personal commitment and connection to the National Guard, given his son served previously," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, referring to the president's late son, Beau Biden.

"He offered assistance, any assistance needed of the government and on a personal level and asked him to reach out if there was anything he ever needed,” she said.

Thousands of Guard troops remain in Washington after being called in to help secure Wednesday's inauguration of Joe Biden, and after a deadly riot by a pro-Trump mob at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The Washington, D.C., National Guard said earlier Thursday that they had been asked to move its rest area by Capitol Police.

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"As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area. They were temporarily relocated to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage with heat and restroom facilities," the D.C. Guard said.

"We remain an agile and flexible force to provide for the safety and security of the Capitol and its surrounding areas," it said.

Security detail requires a rest and break so troops can get out of the weather, the D.C. Guard said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, vowed to get to the bottom of the situation.

Some lawmakers had offered to let troops stay in their office spaces.

"Congress is in session, but buildings are still closed to public, so there’s plenty of room for troops to take a break in them," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, who is also a veteran and served in Iraq and Afghanistan, tweeted.

In the days following the riot and preceding the presidential inauguration, troops were seen resting in between shifts on the marble floors of the Capitol.

National Guard troops from across the country were sent to Washington to provide support. Almost 26,000 were sent.

Approximately 10,600 were on duty Thursday afternoon, and arrangements were being made to send 15,000 home as soon as possible, the National Guard Bureau said.