Washington • Sen. Mike Lee took to Twitter and Fox News on Thursday night to blast the “ungrateful mayor” of the District of Columbia for evicting Utah National Guard soldiers deployed to the nation’s capital from their hotel.
But Mayor Muriel Bowser’s decision — which left the some 200 Utah soldiers homeless for a few hours — appears to be more nuanced, though she did call for Guard soldiers not from the District of Columbia to leave the city.
The Utah soldiers in the nation’s capital had been staying at a Marriott hotel near downtown Washington since their activation on Monday but were checking out Friday after being deployed to various parts of the city until the early morning hours. A new hotel was found later Friday for the Utah soldiers.
Lee, a Utah Republican, criticized the mayor’s action.
“Just heard that Mayor Bowser is kicking the Utah National Guard out of all DC hotels tomorrow. More than 1,200 troops from 10 states are being evicted. This is unacceptable,” Lee tweeted Thursday night.
“These brave men and women have risked their lives protecting DC for three days,” the Utah Republican added in another tweet. “Rioting, looting, arson, and vandalism have all disappeared [because] these soldiers served. And now they are being kicked to the curb by an ungrateful mayor. This must be stopped.”
Bowser pushed back, explaining that the district had a contract with the Marriott Marquis, one of the city’s newer hotels, to house National Guard soldiers who were supporting the coronavirus outbreak response but that did not extend to soldiers the district didn’t request and didn’t want in roles dealing with protesters.
“At no time did we intend or certainly would be able to affect evicting any guardsmen from any hotel,” Bowser said at a news conference, adding that, “our message to the hotel was that if they’re going to use the rooms that we reserved, then [the other Guard units] have to pay for them or you have to refund us our money. And that we understood it would just be a matter of the Guard or the Army making those arrangements. So those out-of-state troops would be covered either by the Army or their home states, not by D.C. residents.”
Bowser also tweeted at Lee: “Senator — until they are recalled home — which I have formally requested from the President, your troops are in DC hotels. However, DC residents cannot pay their hotel bills. The Army can clear that up with the hotel today, and we are willing to help.“
The federal district had not requested National Guard troops; they were sent by the Pentagon as President Donald Trump called for more military action to halt the protests.
Some 4,500 National Guard soldiers have been deployed in the nation's capital, from at least 10 states. Utah's troops were some of the first on the ground, though they have stressed they're in a support role for federal and local law enforcement and not policing the city.
The Utah National Guard said Friday afternoon a new hotel had been found but did not say if it was in the District of Columbia or who was paying for the rooms.
Trump tweaked Bowser on Friday afternoon, arguing she was now fighting with National Guard troops that saved her from “embarrassment” during the sometimes-violent protests in the city.
“If she doesn’t treat these men and women well, then we’ll bring in a different group of men and women!” Trump said, though it was unclear if he meant other Guard troops or active duty soldiers as he has threatened to call up.