Biden Calls National Guard Chief After Troops Briefly Ordered to Take Breaks in Garage

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Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau.
Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, visits with soldiers from the Oregon Army National Guard as they provide security near the White House in Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2021. (U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. 1st Class Zachary Holden)

After outcry when thousands of National Guard members in Washington D.C. were abruptly moved from the U.S. Capitol to a crowded parking garage, President Joe Biden reached out personally to make amends.

The troops were among the 25,600 Guard personnel deployed to D.C. to provide extra security for the inauguration following the Jan. 6 rally that ended with a mob breaching the Capitol building.

The news of the troops' treatment Thursday night, just one day after they secured a peaceful inauguration ceremony, outraged lawmakers. A flurry of congressional phone calls quickly resulted in Guard members being moved out of the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage before midnight to a new break area near Emancipation Hall in the Capitol.

On Friday, President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden showed their support for the Guard in their own way.

"Late this morning, the president called Gen. Daniel Hokanson, who is the head of the National Guard, to thank him for not just his work over the last two weeks but the work of the National Guard over the last several years," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during today's press briefing.

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Psaki said that Biden talked to Hokanson about his "personal commitment and connection to the National Guard" through his son, Beau, a member of the Delaware Guard and Iraq veteran who died in 2015.

Biden also told Hokanson to "reach out if there was anything that he ever needed," Psaki said.

Jill Biden visited Guard troops posted near the Capitol on Friday afternoon to thank them for their presence, and handed out chocolate chip cookies.

The unfortunate incident with the Guard has raised enough questions that Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called for answers.

"I understand and am glad that the Guard has been moved back inside; that's a good thing," Inhofe said in a statement. "But they should never have been pushed out to begin with, so I want answers as to how this was allowed to happen."

Inhofe said he made calls to Yogananda Pittman, the acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police and to Gen. James McConville, the chief of staff of the Army. Inhofe's staff spent time talking to Guard members serving in D.C., according to the statement.

Inhofe said Pittman told him the Guard was never officially asked to leave the Capitol, but "multiple members of military leadership told me they were told yesterday by a member of uniformed Capitol Police that the Guard had to be out of the Capitol Visitor's Center," according to the statement.

"I know one thing -- whether it was confusion from this fog and friction environment or what -- the troops didn't move on their own," Inhofe said in the statement. "We are in the process of identifying who gave the order to the Guard, who deviated from the chain of command."

Meanwhile, the National Guard Bureau and the Capitol Police put out a joint statement Friday afternoon describing how they are "united in the common goal to protect the U.S. Capitol and the Congress during this time."

"The USCP and the National Guard have coordinated their efforts to ensure that National Guardsmen and women are stationed throughout the Capitol Complex are in appropriate spaces within Congressional buildings, including the U.S. Capitol, where they may take on-duty breaks," according to the statement. "Off-duty troops are being housed in hotel rooms or other comfortable accommodations."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Related: After Lawmakers Intervene, Guard Troops Allowed to Return to Capitol for Breaks

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