Thousands of National Guard troops will continue to be deployed at the Capitol for at least the next two months, as lawmakers face ongoing threats in the wake of the 6 January insurrection.
The House of Representatives worked late into the evening on Wednesday to wrap up its work so members could avoid going into the legislature on Thursday amid active threats from a right-wing “militia” group and QAnon conspiracy theorists planned for this weekend.
The US Capitol Police — the legislative branch security force charged with securing the Capitol complex and protecting members of Congress — has asked for a 60-day extension of the current National Guard troop deployment that expires on 12 March.
The Guard is in the process of soliciting states to send contributions, Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a former CIA analyst, tweeted on Thursday.
Thursday’s proposed reauthorisation for another two months of the National Guard mission at the Capitol reflects continued concerns about threats of violence against lawmakers, their staff, and the building in which they work.
Law enforcement officials have beefed up security at the legislature this week after receiving intelligence that some of Donald Trump’s most hardcore fans were considering coming to Washington on Thursday, 4 March, to breach the building and harm Democratic lawmakers. Security officials have also issued warnings of threats made for Saturday, 6 March.
“We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4,” the USCP said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We are taking the intelligence seriously,” the statement said, adding that the USCP has surged “manpower” and other resources to the perimeter surrounding the Capitol complex.
A joint bulletin from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security this week warned that far-right elements have “discussed plans to take control of the US Capitol and remove Democratic lawmakers on or about 4 March.”
Thursday’s date, 4 March, is when most US presidents were inaugurated, before Congress passed a law in 1933 changing Inauguration Day to 20 January.
The date has taken on significance among adherents to the QAnon conspiracy theory and other pro-Trump groups who believe the ex-president will return to DC on Thursday and retake his former office. Mr Trump’s supporters have referred to 4 March as “true Inauguration Day”, according to an internal security bulletin this week from from House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett, obtained by CBS News and other outlets.
Since the Capitol riot in January, thousands of National Guard troops have been patrolling the perimeter of the Capitol, where a fence topped with coils of barbed wire now stands. The Guardsmen and Guardswomen are armed with black assault rifles from the Pentagon and stalk entryways in units of roughly four to eight. More than 25,000 troops were in Washington for Joe Biden’s inauguration on 20 January.
The vague but ongoing threats of violence underscore the difficult decisions confronting officials at the Capitol for balancing security, government transparency, and tourism.
Last month, the acting USCP chief called for the fencing surrounding the complex to remain permanently, which caused an uproar from lawmakers.
At a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing with Capitol security officials last week, Senator Angus King highlighted the dilemma facing members and those responsible for their safety.
“How do we allow the American people to go in the rotunda, to tour the Capitol, to picnic on the grounds, to play with their kids?” he said. “It seems to me that going forward, that is one of our challenges. We want security, but I would hate to see the US Capitol turned into a fortress.”