Head of D.C. National Guard to be removed from post in middle of inauguration
The Army general who heads the D.C. National Guard and has an integral part in overseeing the inauguration said Friday that he will be removed from command effective at 12:01 p.m. Jan. 20, just as Donald Trump is sworn in as president.
Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz’s departure will come in the middle 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 will command not only members of the D.C. Guard but also 5,000 unarmed troops dispatched from across the country to help. He also will oversee military air support protecting Washington during the inauguration.
“My troops will be on the street,” said Schwartz, who turned 65 in October. “I’ll see them off, but I won’t be able to welcome them back to the armory.” He said he would “never plan to leave a mission in the middle of a battle.”
Unlike in the states, where the governor appoints the National Guard commander, in the District that duty falls to the president.
Military officials and Trump transition officials provided contradictory versions of the decision to replace Schwartz. As is customary for presidential appointees, the general submitted a letter of resignation to give the new administration a clean start.
Two military officials with knowledge of the situation said the Trump team decided to accept the resignation. A person close to the transition said transition officials wanted to keep Schwartz in the job for continuity, but the Army pushed to replace him.
Schwartz, who was appointed to head the Guard by President George W. Bush in 2008, maintained the position through President Obama’s two terms. He said his orders came from the Pentagon in the form of an email that names his interim successor, a brigadier general, who takes over at 12:01 p.m. next Friday.
Army Maj. Jamie Davis, a spokesman at the Defense Department, said Schwartz is classified as a “non-career status employee.” He noted that the interim commander “is ready to assume complete mission” and handle the inauguration.
One of the military officials said the Trump transition team receives lists of political appointees and can decide which resignations to accept. All resignations are effective at 12:01 p.m. on Inauguration Day.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) blasted the decision to remove Schwartz, particularly during the inauguration.
“It doesn’t make sense to can the general in the middle of an active deployment,” Mendelson said. He added that Schwartz’s sudden departure will be a long-term loss for the District. “He’s been really very good at working with the community, and my impression was that he was good for the Guard.”
Schwartz said he will work up until that moment, and then plans to retire from the Army. “I’m a soldier,” he said. “I’m a presidential appointee. Therefore, the president has the power to remove me.”
Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.
Read more from the Washington Post here.