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Police, FBI Warn of Possible Capitol Attack Thursday

national guard members walk by capitol building
The U.S Capitol Building behind temporary security fencing as members of the National Guard walk by, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Graeme Sloan/Sipa via AP Images)

Wednesday, 03 March 2021 12:48 PM EST

Law enforcement officials warned that a militia group may be plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, a day tied to conspiracy theories about March 4 being the “true inauguration day.”

“We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4,” U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement Wednesday. “We are taking the intelligence seriously.”

Separately, the Homeland Security Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a joint intelligence bulletin late Tuesday about extremists discussing carrying out attacks at the Capitol from March 4 to March 6, Melissa Smislova, a senior Homeland Security official, told two Senate committees on Wednesday.

The police warning didn’t give specifics, citing the “sensitive nature of this information” that comes about two months after an attack on the Capitol by extremists, which led to at least five fatalities. Capitol Police and federal law enforcement have been criticized for not acting faster on intelligence that the Jan. 6 protests could turn violent.

The warning is surprising because it comes one day after acting Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett told lawmakers that Capitol Police had no indication groups would travel to Washington to protest or commit acts of violence.

However, Blodgett said there would be heightened security Thursday because of baseless conspiracies circulating among extremist groups.

Alaina Gertz, a spokeswoman for Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, said that “MPD does not discuss operational tactics. However, we will continue to monitor and assess information in collaboration with our local and federal partners to ensure the public’s safety.”

In a sign of lingering tensions in the U.S. capital, about 5,000 National Guard troops remain deployed in Washington following the Jan. 6 riot. Pentagon officials say they are scheduled to depart late next week unless requested to stay on. In addition, the Capitol grounds remain ringed by tall, razor wire-topped fencing with limited access points, a perimeter that was established after the Jan. 6 attack.

The latest alerts follow warnings by U.S. national security officials, including FBI Director Christopher Wray, that domestic extremists pose the greatest terrorist threat to the U.S. and are intent on carrying out attacks, especially after the riot, which sought to disrupt the ratification of President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

‘Metastasizing’ Threat

“The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now and it’s not going away anytime soon,” Wray said during a Senate hearing Tuesday. The FBI declined to comment on the new threat warning from the Capitol Police.

March 4 had been the official day for presidential inaugurations until 1933, when the 20th Amendment to the Constitution designated Jan. 20 as the day a president is sworn into office following an election, according to the Library of Congress. People associated with the far-right conspiracy movement QAnon have been circulating the claim that Trump would inaugurated on March 4.

“The United States Capitol Police Department is aware of and prepared for any potential threats towards members of Congress or towards the Capitol complex,” according to the Capitol Police statement. “We have already made significant security upgrades to include establishing a physical structure and increasing manpower to ensure the protection of Congress, the public and our police officers.”

Lawmakers and congressional staffers are being asked to carry identification, report any threats or suspicious activity and keep emergency numbers on hand. Enhanced security around the Capitol, including razor-wire topped fencing and National Guard patrols, are staying in place for now as officials assess further threats.

© Copyright 2024 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Law enforcement officials warned that a militia group may be plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, a day tied to conspiracy theories about March 4 being the "true inauguration day." "We have obtained intelligence...
police, fbi, capitol attack, threat
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 12:48 PM
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