National Guard units are being told to prepare for the possibility that improvised explosive devices will be used by individuals plotting to attack the Capitol in the days surrounding the Inauguration, according to two Guardsmen briefed this week.
The briefings indicate that Washington, D.C.-area law enforcement believe the IEDs planted last week at the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee headquarters were not an isolated incident. The individual who planted those bombs has yet to be apprehended, and FBI agents have been going door to door in D.C. this week asking residents for any photos or video they might have that could help identify the suspect, two of the residents told POLITICO.
In addition to the IED threat, the Guardsmen are being briefed that protesters could be heavily armed. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has authorized the National Guardsmen protecting the Capitol, previously only carrying protective gear, to carry lethal weapons including M-9 handguns. A “significant majority” of soldiers are also carrying M-4 rifles, one of the Guardsmen said.
A Guard spokesperson declined to say whether law enforcement had briefed units at the Capitol on an IED threat.
“Our primary objective is to provide support to local authorities,” said spokesperson Tracy O’Grady Walsh, noting that the Guard’s mission during the inauguration is to provide crowd management, traffic control, parking coordination and medical and logistical support to local authorities. “The public’s safety is our top priority.”