The transition team for President-elect Donald Trump asked the head of the D.C. National Guard to remain in command throughout Inauguration Day after media reports that he would leave in the middle of the ceremony created controversy, the Guard said.
Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz told The Washington Post on Friday that he will be removed from his post immediately after Trump is sworn in as president. That irked at least one D.C. Council member because Schwartz will have to abandon his post during one of the Guard’s most important operations, helping maintain security and order during Washington’s highest-profile event.
As is customary for presidential appointees, Schwartz had offered his resignation after Trump was elected. In an interview Friday, Schwartz said he learned he would be replaced on Jan. 20. He said the transition team ultimately asked him to stay in the job for a few additional days, but only after the report of his departure had been published Friday on The Washington Post website.
Schwartz said he turned down the transition team’s offer because, by then, he had begun packing up his office and notified his staff. He said he believes the offer came only as a result of the negative attention his departure attracted.
He declined to comment further.
Transition officials for the new administration on Friday said the team asked Schwartz to stay on through the inauguration to maintain continuity. They did not immediately respond Saturday to questions about when and how that offer was extended.
Military officials on Saturday backtracked from earlier statements indicating that Schwartz had not been asked to stay on by the new administration. One said he learned he had been mistaken, and that additional paperwork that became available Saturday showed that the transition team had in fact asked Schwartz to maintain his command for several days into the new presidency. That official did not know when that offer was made.
Another senior military official said he believed the offer came before Friday.
Maj. Byron Coward, a spokesman for the D.C. National Guard, also said the offer from the transition team to Schwartz came Friday afternoon. He said Trump transition officials asked Schwartz to stay on an additional three days. Coward said that was the first time Schwartz had any notion that the transition team wanted him to stay in command throughout the inauguration.
On the morning of 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.
Brig. Gen. William J. Walker, who also has been involved with inauguration planning, has been named Schwartz’s interim replacement. He will take command on Friday at 12:01 p.m.
That moment, when the new president is sworn in, is the standard time for many political appointees to step out of their jobs as a new administration takes over.
Unlike in states, where the governor appoints the National Guard commander, in the District that duty falls to the president.
Schwartz, who was appointed to head the Guard by President George W. Bush in 2008, maintained the position through President Obama’s two terms.
Schwartz began his military career in 1976 by enlisting in the Guard, formally called the Militia of the District of Columbia National Guard. He also oversees the Air National Guard, which combined with the Army Guard has an authorized strength of 2,700. He has served in several leadership positions, notably commanding the 372nd Military Police Battalion.
Joe Heim and Aaron C. Davis contributed to this report.