According to a recent FBI and Department of Homeland Security intelligence bulletin obtained by CBS News, the Capitol focused on a possible militia attempt to threaten Democratic lawmakers on March 4 and remains a target for domestic violent extremists.
The bulletin reads: “As of late February, an unidentified group of militia violent extremists discussed plans to take control of the U.S. Capitol and remove Democratic lawmakers on or about 4 March and discussed aspirational plans to persuade thousands to travel to Washington, DC, to participate.”
It also notes that militia organizations have expressed willingness to blow up the Capitol during President Biden’s first presidential speech to a joint session of Congress, which has yet to be scheduled.
Due to the attack, the House session on Thursday was canceled. The Senate is scheduled to be in session the same day.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer issued a revised timetable showing that the House would vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a police reform bill, on Wednesday night rather than Thursday, allowing the House to end its workweek on Wednesday. The bill was approved.
Officials have been on the lookout for signs that extremists motivated by QAnon conspiracy theories will carry out acts of violence in Washington on Thursday, believing that March 4 will be the day of Trump’s “true” inauguration. These groups also believe that, with the US military’s support, Trump will reclaim power on May 20.
According to a separate FBI post, the Three Percenters, an anti-government party, have discussed taking action. In research done by the Anti-Defamation League, the group believes they are protecting Americans from government tyranny.
However, in a letter to members of Congress on Tuesday, acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett said the importance of the March 4 date had “reportedly declined” in recent days, and the US Capitol Police had “no indication that groups will travel to Washington D.C. to protest or commit acts of violence.”
Nonetheless, he wrote, additional personnel will be stationed on Capitol grounds in the coming days, in addition to the National Guard troops who have been stationed in Washington since the January 6 riots to protect the city. According to a spokesperson for the National Guard, about 5,200 soldiers and airmen support law enforcement with defense in and around the United States Capitol. Guard troops will stay in Washington, D.C. until March 12.
On Tuesday, the FBI and DHS bulletin was released hours later, prompting a new email from Blodgett to lawmakers saying the Capitol Police had received “new and concerning information and intelligence indicating additional interest in the Capitol for the dates of March 4th – 6th by a militia group.”
Capitol Police said it had received information “that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an unidentified militia group on Thursday, March 4.”
At a hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Melissa Smislova, acting undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, confirmed that her division had issued a joint intelligence report with the FBI late Tuesday night around midnight.
When asked by Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson if threats to the United States Capitol were “ongoing,” Smislova replied, “Yes.”
On Wednesday, Pittman told lawmakers that Capitol Police are enlisting the help of law enforcement partners across the country in anticipation of possible unrest on March 4 and 6.
“We have enhanced our security posture,” Pittman said. “We have taken immediate steps to let the National Guard, as well as our workforce, know what to expect tomorrow and going forward.”
Pittman described ongoing threats to the US Capitol as “through the roof” in her testimony on Wednesday, noting that the USCP has requested 111 additional dignitary protection officers in the agency’s upcoming FY2022 budget. She testified that, compared to the same period last year, there has been a nearly 94% increase in threats against lawmakers in the first two months of 2021, with many suspects residing outside of Washington.
The acting police chief described the intelligence on the potential for violence as “sensitive” and said she would brief lawmakers in a confidential setting later Wednesday.
Domestic violent extremists’ “perceptions of election fraud and other conspiracy theories connected with the presidential transition,” according to the FBI and DHS bulletin, may lead to violent acts, and they may attempt to target or interrupt planned or unplanned public gatherings in the D.C. region.
Pittman told lawmakers last week that Capitol Police are on high alert because terrorist organizations have threatened violence against Congress members during President Biden’s first speech to Congress.
“We know that members of the militia groups that were present on January 6 have stated their desires that they want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible, with a direct nexus to the State of the Union ― which we know that date has not been identified.”
Pittman said last week when asked about the increased security posture and barbed wire fences surrounding the Capitol complex. These safeguards will be in effect until the Capitol Police have “address[ed] those vulnerabilities,” she said.