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- Former President Donald Trump did not activate the National Guard during or after the U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021
- The notion that the U.S. military controls the federal government is unfounded and false
Did former President Donald Trump order the National Guard to the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack and never call it off? If so, is the National Guard governing the country on Trump’s mandate even though he’s long been out of office?
A Facebook post wants you to believe it.
"The National Guard were activated to federal duty on Jan 6 & 17, 2021," a Facebook post, which adds Jan. 17 for an unknown reason, reads. "Those orders have NOT been rescinded. The military is in COMPLETE control."
The post suggests that the U.S. military "is in complete control" of the government because Trump activated the National Guard on Jan. 6, 2021, and left office without changing his guidance.
The post, which bullet points U.S. Code sections that authorize presidents to deploy the National Guard to repel invasions and Marbury v. Madison, a Supreme Court case that established judicial review, implies that the Trump-deployed Guard, and not President Joe Biden, is in charge of government.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
There is no record of Trump authorizing or requesting any National Guard members be sent anywhere on Jan. 6, as PolitiFact previously reported, and as members of Trump’s administration have said during House select committee hearings.
Here’s what did happen that day, according to a Jan. 7, 2021, statement by the U.S. Defense Department. Sometime after 2 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2021, at Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request, then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller "called up 1,100 members of the D.C. National Guard" to support the D.C. Metropolitan and Capitol Hill police.
Then, on the evening of Jan. 6, Miller authorized mobilizing up to 6,200 National Guard members from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia to "flow into the city over the next few days and will help secure the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joseph Biden on Jan. 20," the statement read.
What about the assertion that the National Guard is in charge? The National Guard answers to the government, specifically state governors, during peacetime, not the other way around. The National Guard, a U.S. military component consisting of 440,000 members of the Army National Guard and Air National Guard, is generally sent to respond to state-level emergencies, such as natural disasters, but can also serve missions overseas.
Though presidents have sometimes called in the Guard to quell civil unrest, Trump is no longer president and would no longer have this power.
Is there a covert plot? The post uses a screenshot of ADS–B Exchange — a free, publicly accessible aircraft tracker that documents the paths of commercial, private and military aircraft — to suggest that because military aircraft are shown flying over states beyond their home bases, Trump is ordering their movement or the armed forces are operating on their own.
Neither of these things is true. Biden, as commander in chief, commands the armed forces.
A Facebook post uses out-of-context screenshots from an aircraft flight tracker and false information about the National Guard’s involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol to claim that the U.S. military "is in complete control" of the national government.
This is untrue and unsupported by evidence. We rate this claim Pants on Fire!
Facebook post, Aug. 29, 2022 (archived)
ADS-B Exchange flight path tracker, accessed Aug. 30, 2022
U.S. Department of Defense, "Defense Officials Detail National Guard Response to Capitol Attack," Jan. 7, 2021
U.S. National Guard, "DOD details National Guard response to Capitol attack," Jan. 8, 2021
PolitiFact, "No, the military doesn’t control the White House," July 30, 2021
Council on Foreign Relations, "A unique military force: The U.S. National Guard," accessed Aug. 30, 2022
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