Inside the Capitol, many lawmakers and advisers are skeptical that the groups can inflict real damage, given that the grounds have been heavily fortified in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. Barbed wire fences still enclose much of the Capitol Hill area, and members and staff must enter through checkpoints controlled by armed National Guard troops.
Still, congressional leaders say they will heed the security warnings, with members still shocked by the violence many of them witnessed two months ago. Some of the security presence, particularly the National Guard, appears to have diminished in recent weeks, although new, more stringent procedures remain in place, such as metal detectors in House chambers.
In a letter to members Wednesday, the House sergeant-at-arms said the Capitol Police had “received disturbing new information and intelligence” suggesting a new threat to the Capitol from March 4-6 “from a militia group “.
Some lawmakers have said that they are actually more concerned about being attacked at the airport or while traveling to and from their districts than being in their offices on Capitol Hill. Capitol security officials have indicated they plan to tighten the safety of lawmakers in transit, acknowledging that many have been attacked in recent months when they are away from the building.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security released a joint intelligence bulletin to state and local law enforcement agencies Tuesday night warning of possible violence on Capitol Hill on March 4. discussing a plan in late February to persuade “thousands” to travel to Washington on that date and “seize control of the United States Capitol and remove Democratic lawmakers.”
The bulletin explained that some domestic violent extremists “motivated by the QAnon conspiracy theory” could be mobilized into action because they believe that Trump will take office on March 4 or return to power on May 20 with the help of the US military.
“Continued [domestic violent extremist] Perceptions of voter fraud and other conspiracy theories associated with the presidential transition may contribute to PVS mobilizing toward violence with little or no warning, ”the document warned. Many Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol on January 6 were directly motivated by Trump’s repeated claims of a stolen election, and the bulletin said extremists might feel “emboldened” by the successful breach of the building that day.
Trump reiterated his false claim that the election was stolen during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday, and intelligence officials said at a Senate hearing on Wednesday that the perpetuation of the false narrative about the elections had contributed. to your concerns about future violence. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) urged Trump to directly fire extremists who support him.
“President Trump has a responsibility to tell them to stand down,” McCaul said on CNN.
FBI Director Chris Wray testified earlier this week that the FBI currently has about 2,000 active domestic terrorism cases open and characterized far-right extremists as “the most significant domestic terrorism threat” now facing the United States. country.
Last week, Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman also told lawmakers about a Capitol-related threat during the State of the Union address, which has yet to be scheduled. Although he did not describe the basis of the threat, he said it was “militia groups that were present on January 6” who “have expressed their desire that they want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible.”
The move could mean a night in the House: The House was already expected to vote on the broad voting rights of Democrats and the anti-corruption bill. Now, the chamber will also consider the Democrats’ police reform legislation, originally scheduled for a vote Thursday. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, each vote typically lasts from 45 minutes to an hour.
Brian Harrell, a former DHS undersecretary for infrastructure, said he did not anticipate any successful attacks on the Capitol since “it is currently fortified as a military installation.” But he said that “all threats must be taken seriously and investigations must be initiated against those who claim the violence. We continue to see far-right groups fueled by misinformation and conspiracy theories quickly become the most dangerous threat to society. “