The commanding general of Washington, D.C.’s national guard will step down from his post and retire next Friday, a few hours in to the inauguration ceremonies he spent months helping to plan.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Major General Errol Schwartz seemed to suggest he’d been pushed out of the job, to which he was first appointed to by George W. Bush in 2008, by the incoming administration.
“My troops will be on the street,” Schwartz told the Post. “I’ll see them off, but I won’t be able to welcome them back to the armory.” He said he would “never plan to leave a mission in the middle of a battle.”
But interviews with senior transition sources and defense department officials suggest the timing of Schwartz departure – 12:01 p.m. on Inauguration Day – was his own choice.
“Major General Schwartz is a non-career status political appointee. As such he has tendered his resignation that will be effective January 20th,” Major Jamie Davis, a Department of Defense spokesman told WUSA9. “This is standard procedure for political appointees.”
Like an ambassador would, Schwartz followed protocol and offered his resignation to the incoming administration. But according to a senior transition official, the Trump team had not yet accepted it – and had asked Schwartz to stay on a few days past inauguration day to help ensure the event went smoothly.
Sources say that with Schwartz successor already named, the General declined to extend his command those extra days, instead stepping down at 12:01 p.m. exactly on January 20th.
““He wants to ensure that there is a secure transition between two commanding generals,” DC National Guard Spokesman Major Byron B. Coward told WUSA9. “There’s not going to be any disconnect or anything of that nature.”
Through Major Coward, Schwartz declined a request to be interviewed for this report.
When General Schwartz steps down he will be replaced by Brigadier General William J. Walker, who will assume the title of acting commanding general. The Trump transition team has not yet decided on whom to appoint for the role permanently, a senior transition source said Friday.
At an Inauguration planning event on December 14th of last year, General Walker spoke with WUSA9 about the pending transition of presidential power. He could just as well have been talking about his own impending change in position.
“There’s a sense that you’re actually witnessing history,” Walker said of Inauguriation day. “You are. You’re witnessing history. You’re witnessing the transfer of power.”