WASHINGTON — The military is expanding its investigation into whether any troops who participated in last week’s pro-Trump rally also took part in the violence inside the U.S. Capitol, even as lawmakers are pressing the Defense Department to rescreen the thousands of military personnel assigned to support the presidential inauguration to vet them for potential extremist ties.
Military personnel are allowed to participate in political events as long as they are attending in a personal capacity and not in uniform, several defense officials said.
But the military is also looking closer at whether any of those service members took part in the deadly attack inside the U.S. Capitol building, after videos and photos of the protest identified several participants as military veterans and at least one as an active-duty service member.
Each of the military branches was conducting its own investigation.
“NCIS is looking Department of Navy-wide,” said Marine Corps spokeswoman Maj. Melanie Salinas, referring to the Navy’s criminal investigative service that conducts investigations for the Navy and Marine Corps.
The Air Force and its Office of Special Investigations “remain ready to assist civilian law enforcement in any investigations into suspected violators of the law,” the service said in a statement.
Some lawmakers have called on the Defense Department to prosecute any service members found to have participated in violent acts at the U.S. Capitol under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.
“Upholding good order and discipline demands that the U.S. Armed Forces root out extremists that infiltrate the military and threaten our national security,” Army veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said in a letter to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller on Monday.
Late Sunday, 1st Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina confirmed that it was investigating at least one active-duty officer, Capt. Emily Rainey, a member of the command’s 4th Psychological Operations Group who attended the rally.
“It’s being looked into as to whether any other soldiers attended,” a defense official told McClatchy.
Rainey remained on active duty Monday as the command began looking into her actions during Wednesday’s protests, said 1st Special Forces Command spokesman Maj. Dan Lessard.
“It is unclear if she violated any laws or regulations, as the DoD encourages members of the Armed Forces to carry out the obligation of citizenship, so long as their actions are in keeping with DoD policy and do not impair the good order and discipline of the service,” Lessard said. “The investigation will determine whether further actions by the command are warranted.”
Rainey had already been in the process of separating from the military before she traveled to Washington for the rally, Lessard said. She filed her paperwork to separate from the military in October after the Army took disciplinary action against her for removing COVID-19 caution tape from a playground in May, he said.
If she is found to have participated in any of the violence or breached the Capitol building, that could reduce her rank and benefits, a defense official told McClatchy.
Following the attack, thousands of additional members of the National Guard are being called up under federal orders to protect Washington during the presidential inauguration. At least 10,000 of those will be on hand by this weekend, and that number could surge to as many as 15,000 troops, chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Dan Hokanson told reporters on a call Monday.
Those forces could stay in D.C. past the inauguration, he said.
Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., said he had asked Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy on Sunday to immediately rescreen military personnel deployed for the inauguration to ensure they are “not sympathetic to domestic terrorists.” He added on Twitter, “Secretary McCarthy agreed to take additional measures.”
It was not clear if or how additional vetting would take place of each service member prior to the inauguration, which is just nine days away. Hokanson said the Guard relies on federal law enforcement agencies to flag any persons of concern, and he was not presently aware of any specific concerns.
Another defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that any additional vetting of personnel would fall on the Secret Service and the Military District of Washington, a joint command which oversees presidential inaugurations and protects the national capital region.
“We don’t tolerate extremists in our ranks,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters. “And we haven’t.”
— Tara Copp, McClatchy Washington Bureau
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