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Two top senators on Friday said that the order for National Guard troops to move their rest area from on Capitol grounds to a nearby parking garage, which sparked fierce outrage on both sides of the aisle, appeared to be a mistake made lower in the chain of command rather than an order from “on high.”
“There was one uniformed police officer who issued an order without authority or without going through the chain of command and I’m glad the Capitol Police and the Guard are talking and trying to figure this out,” Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said after a morning of competing statements from the two organizations. “We are going to be able to identify who that person was.”
Inhofe remains the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee until Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., come to an organizing resolution on how to run the Senate with a 50-50 split.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks alongside Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (not pictured) during a joint press conference at the U.S. Capitol on November 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. Schumer said the order booting the National Guard’s rest area out of the Capitol on Thursday did not come from “on high.” (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Schumer said something similar to Inhofe’s comments earlier in the morning. When asked what happened Thursday, when the story about the National Guard’s substandard break area broke, he said “we heard about it 9:30, got on top of it at 10, and it was solved by about 11, 11:30.”
Schumer continued: “No one from anyone on high, but a few people said they had to leave. No one understood why. But it’s gone. And they all had a nice place to stay… What happened was an outrage and it will not happen again.”
The National Guard said Friday that the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) had ordered its troops to move its break area — where the troops rest during their 12-hour shifts — from inside the Capitol to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center’s parking garage.
Acting USCP Chief Yogananda Pittman, however, pushed back on that assertion.
“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.
Pittman added: “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.”
But Pittman’s statement did not accept blame for any uniformed officers making any orders, as Inhofe said. And an earlier Capitol Police statement did not acknowledge that the troops had been moved at all.
At least three governors have recalled their National Guard troops from D.C., over the parking garage controversy. Those are Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and Greg Abbott of Texas.
On “Fox & Friends,” reacting to the controversy, DeSantis also decried background checks of National Guard troops for radicalism ahead of the inauguration and called the massive effort to protect the Capitol a “half-cocked mission at this point.”
Sununu said the soldiers “should be graciously praised, not subject to substandard conditions.” But the outrage at the soldiers being sent to rest in a garage was hardly partisan.
There was also loud bipartisan condemnation of the soldiers being forced into the parking garage. This included Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; and Maggie, Hassan, D-N.H., among other senators and a litany of House members.
Merkley specifically offered his office’s conference rooms and bathrooms to guard members. The U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement earlier Friday that it “immensely appreciates” the National Guard’s assistance in recent days.
The increased threat level to the Capitol came after a pro-Trump mob stormed and ransacked the building on Jan. 6, as members sat in a joint session to certify the presidential election results.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, along with hundreds of lawmakers, were forced to hide from the mob.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson, Jason Donner and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.