In a highly unusual and very concerning move, Army Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, commander of the D.C. National Guard, has been ordered to vacate his post as Trump is sworn in.
The Washington Post reports that D.C. National Guard Commander Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz has been ordered to vacate his post during the inauguration. Schwartz, whose removal was ordered by the Pentagon for reasons which remain unclear, has served in his position since being appointed by President George W. Bush in 2008.
The U.S. Army general who heads the D.C. National Guard and is an integral part of overseeing the inauguration said Friday he has been ordered removed from command effective Jan. 20, 12:01 p.m., just as Donald Trump is sworn in as president.
Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz’s departure will come in the midst of the presidential ceremony, classified as a national special security event — and while thousands of his troops are deployed to help protect the nation’s capital during an inauguration he has spent months helping to plan.
“The timing is extremely unusual,” Schwartz said in an interview Friday morning, confirming a memo announcing his ouster that was obtained by The Washington Post. During the inauguration, Schwartz would command not only the members of the D.C. guard but also an additional 5,000 unarmed troops sent in from across the country to help. He also would oversee military air support protecting the nation’s capital during the inauguration.
“My troops will be on the street,” Schwartz, who turned 65 in October, said, “I’ll see them off but I won’t be able to welcome them back to the armory.” He said that he would “never plan to leave a mission in the middle of a battle.”
This extraordinary and perplexing decision, which creates a leadership vacancy at a demanding time for military and law enforcement, was greeted with shock by local legislators. Democratic D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson said the order simply "doesn't make sense."
"He's been really very good at working with the community," Mendelson added, which is no small thing in a time when the National Guard has been repeatedly deployed in conflict with the communities they are meant to protect.
Schwartz's removal is particularly inexplicable given the timing — smack in the middle of Inauguration Day, during which there will be heightened security and an unusual number of people in D.C. to attend or protest the inaugural.
As recently as December 22, Schwartz participated in a press briefing on military and national guard support to the inauguration, during which he and others detailed the complex inter-agency security measures that were exhaustively planned and have been put in place for Inauguration Day.
The origin and rationale for the curious decision to remove a key player in this security apparatus is yet unknown, although Trump's transition team has ordered a number of federal employees to leave their jobs by Inauguration Day, including overseas ambassadors.
The Post notes: "The Army and officials with Trump’s transition team did not immediately respond for comment."