Fact check: National Guard members remained armed during inauguration

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Devon Link, USA TODAY
·5 min read
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The claim: Biden-Harris Presidential Transition team asked military to confiscate National Guard's ammo to protect Biden during inauguration

President Joe Biden’s inauguration was historically unique with a large military presence and millions of Americans watching from home. As the federal government swore in the 46th president on the U.S. Capitol steps on Jan. 20, roughly 25,000 National Guard members stood alert throughout Washington, a reminder of the deadly insurrection carried out on those steps just weeks before.

Of the many security precautions taken for the event, disarming Americans troops was not one of them, as claimed on social media.

“Biden’s transition team has revealed there is a very real fear that members of the national guard who support President Trump might kill Biden during the inauguration so they’ve asked commanders to confiscate all ammo and magazines from the soldiers,” claims a viral meme shared many times before Jan. 20.

More: Fact check: Photo captures House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thanking National Guard

A soldier standing masked outside the Capitol is pictured under the false claim.

Twitter user @amuse shared the claim and photo on Twitter on Jan. 17, where it received more than 4,400 quote tweets, 6,100 retweets and 10,200 likes.

In a Twitter thread, @amuse added to the falsehoods, claiming Biden’s team had requested soldiers' voting records and demoting Secret Service agents with Trump loyalties.

USA TODAY contacted @amuse and several Facebook users that posted the meme. None of them responded.

President Joe Biden addresses the nation after being sworn in during the 2021 Presidential Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol.
President Joe Biden addresses the nation after being sworn in during the 2021 Presidential Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol.

Defense Department vetted troops

Officials announced they would conduct background checks to vet National Guard troops deployed to Washington for the inauguration.

In a Jan. 18 statement, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said the Department of Defense would vet National Guardsmen.

“While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital,” he wrote. “This type of vetting often takes place by law enforcement for significant security events."

Miller explained the soldiers were being trained to report anything inappropriate they see or hear up the chain of the command. The FBI assisted the DOD in this wide-scale vetting process.

Miller stressed that this intensive vetting was “normal for military support to large security events."

The military routinely screens its members for extremist connections, however, the FBI’s scrutiny is an additional measure used for similar events.

Hundreds of National Guard members were at the U.S. Capitol for security as the House prepared to vote on impeaching President Donald Trump.
Hundreds of National Guard members were at the U.S. Capitol for security as the House prepared to vote on impeaching President Donald Trump.

“If there’s any indication that any of our soldiers or airmen are expressing things that are extremist views, it’s either handed over to law enforcement or dealt with the chain of command immediately,” said the chief of National Guard Bureau, Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson.

Several servicemen and veterans were identified among the crowd responsible for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, heightening concerns ahead of Inauguration Day.

More: Fact check: What's true about the Capitol riot, from antifa to BLM to Chuck Norris

Screening finds no credible threat to Biden within National Guard

The screenings prompted officials to remove 12 National Guard members from the inauguration security detail by Jan. 19 for exhibiting questionable behavior in the past.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said two of those members were removed for making inappropriate comments about the inauguration. Not all of the 12 have ties to far-right extremist groups.

Members of the National Guard move along Louisiana Ave. NE in Washington, DC on Jan. 19, 2021.
Members of the National Guard move along Louisiana Ave. NE in Washington, DC on Jan. 19, 2021.

The FBI identified 10 of those 12 service members as security risks. Military leadership and an anonymous source identified the other two, according to USA TODAY. Authorities found no evidence that these service members were involved in a plot to threaten the security of the inauguration.

No record that Biden's team requested military disarm troops

USA TODAY could find no credible reports that the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition team asked the military to disarm its soldiers. The team has not made this request publicly through either a press release on its website or its Twitter account, which changed to White House official accounts immediately after the inauguration.

President-elect Joe Biden bumps fists with former President Barack Obama during Biden's inauguration, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
President-elect Joe Biden bumps fists with former President Barack Obama during Biden's inauguration, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

The Department of Homeland Security called roughly 25,000 National Guard service members to the capital in the days before the inauguration as part of a massive security operation.

Disarming those soldiers would have compromised their ability to carry out that operation.

More: Fact check: Chatham County, Georgia, stopped counting votes when staff ran out of ballots

Biden's team did not respond to USA TODAY's request for comment.

Our rating: False

Social media posts claiming the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition team requested military leaders confiscate National Guard members ammo and magazines ahead of the inauguration to thwart a potential assassination are FALSE based on our research. Officials removed 12 service members from the inaugural security detail, but found no evidence any National Guard members we involved in a planned attack on the president. Disarming those troops would compromise the security operation the National Guard was in D.C. to conduct.

Our fact-check sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: National Guard protected Biden by remaining armed