Multiple reports by credible sources confirmed that soldiers were sent to a parking garage to rest. Authorities are looking into the matter.
The Washington Post reported that two soldiers, on the condition of anonymity, told them that "hundreds of National Guard members were forced out of a U.S. Capitol cafeteria and into a parking garage nearby, putting them in close quarters with moving cars, exhaust fumes, and troops potentially infected with the coronavirus". Politico was the first one to report on this news. Initially, the guards were using the cafeteria as a place to rest, but they were abruptly asked to move to the garage without any explanation. The parking garage did not have any internet reception, just one electrical outlet, and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops, reported Politico. On the day, temperatures in Washington were in the low 40s by nightfall.
Officials with the D.C. National Guard said soldiers who finish their duty have hotel rooms where they can stay. But soldiers could not easily return to them as they conduct shifts on and off for a few hours over a day or two at a time. Subsequently, CNN reported that "members of the National Guard had been allowed back into the Capitol Complex after a slate of lawmakers voiced their outrage at guardsmen being banished to a parking garage as a rest area".
There has been confusion around who gave orders to the soldiers asking them to leave the building. Capt. Edwin Nieves Jr., a D.C. National Guard spokesman, said that they were asked to vacate the premises because the Congress was in session and there was increased foot traffic, and business was being conducted. However, acting U.S. Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman insisted that the Capitol Police "did not instruct the National Guard to vacate the Capitol Building facilities," with the "exception of specific times" on Inauguration Day when the swearing-in ceremonies were underway.
CBS News reported that Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican, tried to get to the bottom of the matter and said: “So this is what happened. One uniformed police officer issued an order without authority or going through the chain of command. I’m glad the Capitol Police are trying to figure who it was. We will identify who that person was and make it public.” The Capitol Police said they were looking into the matter.
The number of Guard soldiers mobilized to provide security for the inauguration rose sharply following the January 6 Capitol attack, ultimately surpassing 20,000 by January 20. A spokesman for the National Guard Bureau said that the D.C. Guard was responsible for their lodging. A joint statement from the National Guard Bureau and the Capitol Police released a statement that did not explain why soldiers were sent to a parking garage but suggested it would not happen again. “Off-duty troops are being housed in hotel rooms or other comfortable accommodations,” Major Murphy said.
We conclude this claim is true because multiple accounts corroborate the story that guards were asked to sleep in the garage.