Jill Biden, in her first solo outing as first lady, stopped on Capitol Hill to thank National Guard members for their service during her husband’s inauguration.
‘I just wanted to come today to say thank you to all of you for keeping me and my family safe,’ she told them.
She noted the Biden’s were a National Guard family, invoking the memory of the late Beau Biden, who served in the Delaware National Guard.
‘I’m a National Guard mom,’ she told them. ‘The National Guard will always hold a special place in the hearts of all the Bidens.’
Jill Biden carried a basket filled with chocolate-chip cookies for the service members, who had to spend part of Thursday’s cold night in a garage after being told they could not take their breaks in the Capitol. The report of the guards’ treatment caused outrage among lawmakers and the service members were eventually let back inside the building.
‘The White House baked you some chocolate chip cookies. I can’t say I baked them all myself,’ she said, calling a ‘small thank you.’
One guard member appeared to hand her a challenge coin during her visit. The service members posed for a group photo with the first lady, then uttered a ‘hooah’ in salute.
Biden made the unscheduled stop after she visited the Whitman Walker Health, a Washington D.C. based clinic, to hear about the impact of COVID-19 on access to health care, including cancer screenings and prevention efforts.
She wore a white Gabriela Hearst dress, the same person who designed her inauguration evening dress, and the same face covering she wore the night of her husband’s swearing-in.
Jill Biden, in her first solo outing as first lady, stopped on Capitol Hill to thank National Guard members for their service
Jill Biden told them the Bidens were a National Guard family and ‘the National Guard will always hold a special place in the hearts of all the Bidens’
Jill Biden carried a basket filled with chocolate chip cookies for the National Guard members
Beau Biden served in the National Guard; he’s seen with Jill and with his father, then Vice President Joe Biden, at Camp Victory in Iraq in 2009 – Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2009
Jill Biden addresses National Guard members during an unscheduled stop on Capitol Hill
One guards member appeared to give Jill Biden a challenge coin
Jill Biden also visited the Whitman Walker Health, a Washington D.C. based clinic, to hear about the impact of COVID-19
Jill Biden wore a white Gabriela Hearst dress, the same person who designed her inauguration evening dress, and the same face covering she wore the night of her husband’s swearing-in
First lady Jill Biden walks with Kim Thiboldeaux, left, CEO of the Cancer Support Community, during a tour of Whitman-Walker Health
Jill Biden wore a gold necklace that read ‘Mama’ along with a triple strand of pearls
Jill Biden speaks with Naseema Shafi, right, CEO of Whitman-Walker Health, during a tour of the clinic
Jill Biden made her first solo outing as first lady on Friday
Jill Biden has hit the ground running as first lady.
It’s a marked contrast to her predecessor, Melania Trump. Melania Trump stayed in New York for the first few months of her husband’s administration so their son, who was 10 years old at the time, could finish out the school year there.
Her first event was a short speech at International Women of Courage ceremony at the State Department on March 29, 2017, followed by an appearance at the annual White House Easter Egg roll in April.
She then held a virtual event with educators on Thursday night.
Jill Biden, who said she would continue her teaching job alongside her first lady duties, told the educators on the call she is currently teaching this semester. She teaches writing at Northern Virginia Community College, where she taught full-time as second lady throughout the Obama administration.
And she joked it was funny to call her husband of 43 years the president.
‘I mean it’s funny to call on President Biden,’ she said after repeatedly referring to him as ‘Joe.’
Biden’s stop on Capitol Hill came after National Guard members were allowed to return to the Capitol building late Thursday night to rest during their shift breaks.
Capitol Police apologized after it emerged they had asked the troops brought in to protect Washington DC during the inauguration to leave the Capitol building and take their rest breaks in a nearby designated parking lot instead.
Photos showed up to 5,000 Guardsmen sleeping on the floor of the packed Thurgood Marshall Building parking lot and in a park outside as temperatures hit a low of 40 degrees.
The scenes sparked immediate outrage among lawmakers as some Guardsmen revealed they felt ‘incredibly betrayed’ given they had just spent more than a week helping to fortify and protect the capital.
Footage obtained by NBC News showed the Guardsmen filing out of the parking lot overnight after they were permitted around midnight to return to the Capitol building in the wake of the fierce backlash.
It followed reports that the troops had been kicked out of the Capitol, with some Guardsmen saying the parking lot they were relocated to had a single power outlet, no internet and just one bathroom with two stalls, according to Politico.
Thousands of National Guardsmen have now been allowed to return to the US Capitol after images of them sleeping outside and in a nearby parking garage overnight sparked outrage 24 hours after the inauguration. Troops are pictured above leaving the Thurgood Marshall Building parking lot just after dawn on Friday
Footage obtained by NBC News showed the Guardsmen filing out of the Thurgood Marshall Building parking lot in Washington DC overnight after they were permitted around midnight to return to the Capitol building in the wake of the fierce backlash
Guard spokesman Maj. Matt Murphy said Capitol Police had asked the troops to move their rest area given the increased foot traffic in the Capitol building given Congress is in session.
‘They were temporarily relocated to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage with heat and restroom facilities. We remain an agile and flexible force to provide for the safety and security of the Capitol and its surrounding areas,’ he said.
Capitol Police apologized in the wake of the outrage but Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman clarified in a statement on Friday morning that police did not tell Guardsmen they had to vacate.
‘It was brought to our attention early today that facility management with the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Office Building reached out directly to the National Guard to offer use of its facilities,’ Pittman said.
‘As of this morning, all Guardsmen and women have been relocated to space within the Capitol Complex. The Department is also working with the Guard to reduce the need for sleeping accommodations by establishing shorter shifts, and will ensure they have access to the comfortable accommodations they absolutely deserve when the need arises.’
The troops will take their breaks near the Emancipation Hall inside the Capitol building going forward.
The soldiers do have hotel rooms but their 12 hour shift pattern means they cannot easily return to their rooms during rest breaks.
Before being located to the parking lot, the troops had been allowed to take rest breaks inside the Capitol building.
Once they finish their shift, the Guardsmen then return to their hotel rooms.
National Guard soldiers are pictured sleeping inside the Capitol Visitors Center of the US Capitol on Friday after being allowed back in
One unnamed soldier had earlier said the forced move to the parking lot had left troops ‘feeling incredibly betrayed’.
‘Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,’ he said.
Another guardsman told CNN: ‘After everything went seamlessly, we were deemed useless and banished to a corner of a parking garage.’
One more told Task & Purpose: ‘Leaving our families for the last two weeks to come down here. It’s certainly important and historic, but the day after inauguration you kick us literally to the curb? Come on, man.’
Amid concerns about COVID-19 one soldier told The Washington Post: ‘We are on top of each other all day, every day. We’ve given up.’ Another added: ‘Our guidance is if you’re not eating or drinking, you need to be wearing a mask. We’ve already had just some in my unit alone test positive for Covid, and they’re just keeping us packed together with caution tape in small areas. And that’s the only authorized rest area.’
The images of the Guardsmen sparked fierce reaction from politicians on both sides of the aisle, with Democrats and Republicans demanding answers as to why the men and women were told to leave the Capitol complex.
Some offered their offices to the troops.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the soldiers ‘deserve to be treated with respect’; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the move was ‘outrageous’.
Idaho National Guard troops sleep and eat on the eastern lawn of the US Capitol building on Capitol Hill on Thursday
New Hampshire National Guard posted this image Wednesday with the caption: ‘NH guardsmen slumber last night in a Washington, D.C. parking garage. Beginning a 36-hour security mission in support of the presidential inauguration, they staged in the garage overnight before standing security posts along the National Capital Region this morning’
Up to 5,000 troops have been kept without internet, with one electrical outlet, and one bathroom with two stalls, reports say
One soldier said: ‘After everything went seamlessly, we were deemed useless and banished to a corner of a parking garage’
Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, said Capitol Police had apologized to the troops.
‘Just made a number of calls and have been informed Capitol Police have apologized to the Guardsmen and they will be allowed back into the complex tonight. I’ll keep checking to make sure they are,’ she tweeted.
She had earlier said: ‘Unreal. I can’t believe that the same brave servicemembers we’ve been asking to protect our Capitol and our Constitution these last two weeks would be unceremoniously ordered to vacate the building.
Following fierce reaction online from politicians on both sides of the aisle Senator Tammy Duckworth tweeted: ‘Just made a number of calls and have been informed Capitol Police have apologized to the Guardsmen and they will be allowed back into the complex tonight’
‘I am demanding answers ASAP. They can use my office.’
Shortly after midnight Duckworth confirmed the ‘troops are now all out of the garage’.
The National Guard Bureau said on Thursday that of the nearly 26,000 Guard troops deployed to DC for the inauguration, just 10,600 remain on duty.
The bureau said the Guard is helping states with coordination and logistics so that troops can get home.
Thousands of Guard troops from all across the country poured into DC by the planeload and busload late last week in response to escalating security threats and fears of more rioting.
Military aircraft crowded the runways at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, carrying Guard members into the region in the wake of the deadly January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.
Officials said Thursday that of the nearly 26,000 Guard troops deployed to D.C. for the inaugural, just 10,600 remain on duty
Guard spokesperson Maj. Matt Murphy had said: ‘As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area. They were temporarily relocated to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage with heat and restroom facilities’
Guard forces were scattered around the city, helping to secure the Capitol, monuments, Metro entrances and the perimeter of central DC, which was largely locked down for several days leading up to Wednesday’s inaugural ceremony.
After images of the men and women forced to sleep in the parking lot were shared Republican Sen. Mike Lee said: ‘Very upset by this story but I have been in touch with the Utah National Guard and they are taken care of. My staff and I are investigating what happened here and will continue working to fix this situation.’
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: ‘Yeah this is not okay. My office is free this week to any service members who’d like to use it for a break or take nap on the couch. We’ll stock up on snacks for you all too. (We’re in the middle of moving offices and it’s a bit messy so don’t judge, but make yourself at home!)’
Democrat Sen. Krysten Sinema tweeted: ‘This is outrageous, shameful, and incredibly disrespectful to the men and women keeping the U.S. Capitol safe and secure. We need it fixed and we need answers on how it happened.’
The Secret Service announced that the special security event for the inauguration officially ended at noon Thursday.
The Guard said that it may take several days to make all the arrangements to return the 15,000 home, but it should be complete in five to 10 days. Guard members will have to turn in equipment, make travel plans and go through COVID-19 screening.
Some local law enforcement agencies have asked for continued assistance from the Guard, so roughly 7,000 troops are expected to stay in the region through the end of the month.
Pictures of the armed camouflage-clad troops resting on the marble floors of the Capitol building and patrolling the grounds had already been widely shared in the wake of the January 6 siege. It is believed to be the first time troops have set up camp in the Capitol since the Civil War.
Throngs of guardsmen were seen cradling their guns as they slept in the open on the floor and took turns making rounds of the Capitol grounds.