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The abrupt resignation of Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf added to the mounting tension in Washington ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week, with thousands of National Guard troops set to be deployed and the FBI warning of armed protests in all 50 state capitals.
As inaugural security preparations intensified, House Democrats accelerated their push to force the ouster of President Donald Trump before his term officially ends, threatening to impeach him for a second time unless he resigns for encouraging the march that led to last Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol.
But Vice President Mike Pence indicated that he’d reject demands to immediately oust Trump through the 25th Amendment to the Constitution as the two met in the Oval Office and agreed to work together for the remainder of the term, according to a senior administration official.
Investigations continued into the deadly Capitol riot, and Democrats in the House and Senate have said that Republican colleagues who continued to support Trump’s false claims that he won the election even after the insurrectionists had left, must be held to account.
Republicans also found themselves confronting another crisis, being shunned by once-reliable corporate allies who have been essential to financing their campaigns. At the same time, many of the president’s supporters around the country did not waver in their belief that the 2020 election had been stolen.
Earlier in the day, Wolf announced that “the evolving security landscape” had led to a decision to begin security for the inauguration on Jan. 13. The efforts were originally scheduled to begin on Jan. 19.
According to the FBI’s warning, the protests in state capitals would begin on Jan. 16 and at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 17, and continue through Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, according to a law enforcement official.
Wolf said the decision came at the recommendation of Secret Service Director James Murray, adding that local, state and federal partners will work together during the extended security operations.
The National Guard has received approval to deploy as many as 15,000 personnel to Washington before and during the inauguration, as law enforcement in the nation’s capital and around the country braced for violence during the transition of power.
The lingering sense of anxiety over last week’s violence refused to dissipate as historians struggled to come up with analogous events from the past, and were asked a question that once seemed unthinkable — was the U.S. headed toward a new civil war?
The feeling of disruption did not ease when Wolf announced that he would step down after “recent events,” including court rulings that held he had not been lawfully appointed to the post.
At least five federal judges have ruled that Wolf lacked authority as acting secretary of the department because his nomination in November 2019 was never confirmed by the Senate. Biden has nominated Alejandro Mayorkas to be his Homeland Security secretary.
Last week, in the wake of the riot, Wolf called on “the president and all elected officials to strongly condemn the violence that took place yesterday.” He said then that he wouldn’t step down before Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.
His sudden departure adds to the confusion surrounding federal and state security preparations for the inauguration. The Homeland Security Department plays a critical role in securing the actual inauguration and assisting state and local officials during times of crisis.
He said he would be replaced in an acting capacity by Pete Gaynor, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Wolf, a Trump loyalist, had been the chief of staff to Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security secretary forced out by Trump in April 2019.
The National Guard deployment is a significant increase from the 6,200 troops from six states and the District of Columbia that have already been mobilized in the wake of last week’s attack.
Ten thousand of the troops are to arrive by Saturday and will stay through Jan. 20.
“We’ve received support requests from the Secret Service, Capitol Police and Park Police,” Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Monday. “Our troops have been requested to support security, logistics, liaison and communication missions.”
The meeting between Trump and Pence, in the Oval Office, marked the first time they have spoke since the president’s supporters entered the Capitol while the vice president was presiding over formal affirmation of their re-election defeat, according to two people familiar with the matter.
— With assistance by Sophia Cai, Jennifer Jacobs, and Billy House