The FBI intends to screen some 25,000 National Guard troops coming to Washington, DC because they are concerned that the troops pose a threat to the incoming president and the transition formalities. It is not legal, however, to vet military members for their political views.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) went further that just to say that troops should be vetted for their past activities but said that Guard member's white maleness is problematic because it indicates that many of them may have voted for Trump.
"This morning I was reading about this on my Twitter account, I guess, and people were reminding people of Anwar Sadat and Indira Ghandi who were killed by their own people. And I was thinking: the Guard is 90 some-odd percent male, only about 20 percent of white males voted for Biden.
"You gotta figure that in the Guard, which is predominantly more conservative, I see that on my social media, we know it. They're probably not more than 25 percent of the people that are there protecting us who voted for Biden. The other 75 percent are in the class that would be in the large class of folks who might want to do something.
"And there were military people and police who took oaths to defend the constitution and to protect and defend who didn't do it and were in the insurrection," and Cohen went on to tout the vetting process of the National Guard troops.
"To have voted for Trump doesn't make you an insider threat, that's far different from being an inside threat to violence," CNN's Jim Acosta fired back, asking "Is there anything you've seen to substantiate just how broad this insider threat may be, if it exists?"
Cohen replied "Actually not, Jim. But y'know you draw a circle first, and the first circle is people who work for Trump and not for Biden, as far as people who would be within the zone of folks of people you'd be suspect of. The suspect group is large."
US defense officials claim to be worried about an insider attack that would come from National Guard troops, in the wake of the Capitol Hill riot on Jan. 6. On Sunday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the AP that commanders had been warned to keep a close eye on their troops to make sure they're not a threat to the incoming administration or the activities that will usher them into office, according to the AP.
There has been no evidence of any threats so far, and no new issues have yet been uncovered as a result of this vetting. The vetting process would mean running names through databases and watchlists to see if the National Guard member has had any prior concerns regarding terrorism or threats leveled against them, according to David Gomez, formerly of the FBI.
McCarthy said that "We're continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation." In an interview, he said that he and "other military leaders went through an exhaustive, three-hour security drill in preparation for Wednesday's inauguration."
National Guard troops are also being trained as to how to identify dissension to the point of threats among their ranks. "If there's any indication that any of our soldiers or airmen are expressing things that are extremist views, it's either handed over to law enforcement or dealt with the chain of command immediately," said Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau.
The vetting began once troops began arriving in DC. "The question is, is that all of them? Are there others?" said McCarthy. "We need to be conscious of it and we need to put all of the mechanisms in place to thoroughly vet these men and women who would support any operations like this."
McCarthy said that the primary threat they are looking out for is one attack that would be carried out by a group of armed persons, or planted explosives. Additionally, he said that there are groups that are organizing armed rallies both in the lead up to inauguration day and in its aftermath. This troop deployment is well more than two times that of previous inaugurations.
The AP reports that "only a couple of current active-duty or National Guard members have been arrested in connection with the Capitol assault."
Meanwhile, it was reported that there is no evidence of credible threats at this time.
Military members are allowed to protest, and to hold whatever political views they choose, but they are not allowed to protest in uniform, or as representatives of the armed forces.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice states that commissioned officers from are prohibited from disrespecting public officials.
"Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."
In terms of political activity, Department of Defense guidance says that "federal employees, military members, and their families are encouraged to participate in the political process.
This can include voting, donating, and typical activities that are by their nature publicly non-partisan. The act of voting, for example, is a non-partisan act no matter who you support. The CHOICES you make in voting are political, but the ACT of voting is non-partisan. The fact that you donated funds to support a political cause is not in itself viewed as a partisan act. You can hold a non-partisan office as a military member such as being on a local school board, but such activities may not interfere with your military duties in any way."