According to an anonymously sourced Politico report on Sunday, a contingency force of 7,000 National Guard troops will stay in DC until Trump’s trial begins in February, after which 5,000 will stay put until the trial concludes, likely in the middle of March.
Politico’s sources said the deployment was necessary due to “impeachment security concerns,” yet the troops say they’ve been given little information about their mission, which one guardsman said is “very unusual for any military mission.”
Some 25,000 National Guard troops were deployed to the city following a pro-Trump riot on Capitol Hill earlier this month. The troops stayed on guard through President Joe Biden’s inauguration, even as the supposed threat of further pro-Trump rioting and “extremism” never materialized.
Morale among the troops has since plummeted. Several thousand soldiers were evicted from Capitol Hill following Biden’s inauguration and forced to sleep in an unheated parking garage, and nearly 200 have tested positive for Covid-19. Nourishing food is reportedly scarce, with even ready-to-eat rations in short supply.
“Even if they do arrive all on time, the calories are just not there for the amount of work we put in and time we’re spending on our feet, in the cold, in full gear,” one Guard member told Politico.
Another compared the troops’ living conditions to those of wartime. “Quite frankly this is not a ‘combat zone’, so combat conditions shouldn’t apply,” one guardsman and Afghanistan veteran told the news site.
The deployment has angered some Republicans, who see it as a piece of Democrat-orchestrated political theater, rather than a security necessity. At least eight Republican governors, among them Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Texas’ Greg Abbott, have called their states’ troops home. “They’re soldiers,” DeSantis told Fox News on Friday, “they are not [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi’s servants.”
In addition to the soldiers remaining behind, the US Capitol is still surrounded with a twelve-foot security fence topped with razor wire, and plans are in the works to make the fencing a permanent fixture.
The heightened security in DC is as politically divisive as Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial: for Democrats it is a symbol of the threat posed by pro-Trump “domestic terrorists” and justification for tough new surveillance laws, while for Republicans it demonstrates Biden’s unpopularity and lack of mandate to govern.
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