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National Guard troops seen sleeping in Capitol in striking photos

Law enforcement has flooded the area around the Capitol a week ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration and as the House votes on whether to impeach President Trump a second time.
/ Source: TODAY

The security presence around the Capitol building is robust exactly one week before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and one week after a mob of pro-Trump rioters stormed the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. government.

Since late Tuesday, law enforcement has descended on Washington in great numbers, including 1,000 armed National Guard troops, who slept inside the Capitol overnight, NBC News' Tom Costello reported on TODAY Wednesday. The soldiers were carrying semiautomatic weapons "in the event of trouble," he said.

Members of the National Guard sleep in the rotunda on Capitol Hill.Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

NBC News congressional correspondent Leigh Ann Caldwell also witnessed the scene: hundreds of officers lying down on the floor of Emancipation Hall and the Capitol Visitor Center, which is connected to the Capitol through underground tunnels.

Members of the National Guard sleep in Emancipation Hall a week ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden.Courtesy Leigh Ann Caldwell.
National Guard troops also slept on the floor of the Capitol Visitor Center.Courtesy Leigh Ann Caldwell.

“I can’t believe how many troops are here," Caldwell said she heard one troop remark early Wednesday.

Another photo, shared on Twitter by Wall Street Journal reporter Lindsay Wise, shows the Statue of Freedom in the foreground with dozens of uniformed troops getting some shut-eye in the background.

The National Guard presence also coincides with the House of Representatives' efforts to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time. Members are expected to vote Wednesday afternoon on a single article of impeachment, charging Trump with "incitement of insurrection" for last week's riots.

In addition to the National Guard, members of D.C. police, the Secret Service, Capitol Police and state police agencies are also patrolling the area, Costello reported. Fencing around the Capitol has been extended for several blocks beyond the building. North Capitol Street, which begins just north of the Capitol building, is blocked off, making room for National Guard troop carriers in the streets, he added.

Costello, who's lived in Washington for 16 years, noted that he's never seen this degree of security in the city leading up to an inauguration, adding that other residents feel it's "as dramatic or more so" compared to after 9/11.

"The fear of another attack or attacks plural is very, very real," Costello said, pointing to recent warnings from FBI and Capitol Police of ongoing threats against members of Congress, the government, government buildings and agencies.

"The concern is that now that there has been this all-out insurrection attempt on the Capitol, that people are feeling emboldened, as if ... they either do it now or not at all, and they are in fact plotting to carry out more attacks," Costello said.