US Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman argued to maintain increased law enforcement presence at the Capitol ahead of Joe Biden’s first address to Congress, following warnings from militia groups that she says want to “blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible” in connection with the president’s upcoming State of the Union address.
She told members of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Thursday that her agency is aware of far-right militia groups that participated in the Capitol insurrection on 6 January that 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.”
“So based on that information, we think that it’s prudent that Capitol Police maintain its enhanced and robust security posture until we address those vulnerabilities going forward,” she said.
Her comments follow a terrorism advisory bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security, issued on 27 January and effective through April, due to a “heightened threat environment” in the wake of the inauguration.
The warning says anti-government “ideologically motivated violent extremists” motivated by “perceived grievances fuelled by false narratives” could “continue to mobilise to incite or commit violence”.
The acting chief – who replaced Steven Sund following his resignation from the force after the assault – said that “it has been suggested that the department was either ignorant of or ignored critical intelligence that indicated that an attack of the magnitude that we experienced ... would occur” but said that “there was no such intelligence.”
“No credible threat indicated that tens of thousands would attack” the Capitol, she said, and intelligence from federal law enforcement did not “indicate such a threat” would occur, despite warnings circulated among law enforcement agencies.
An intelligence assessment compiled three days before the attack said that “militia members, white supremacists and other extremist groups” planned to participate in events surrounding a rally featuring Donald Trump and others amplifying the lie that the election stolen from his supporters, which fuelled a riot inside the halls of Congress as lawmakers convened to certify the results.
The report also said that “the threat of disruptive actions or violence cannot be ruled out”.
Despite that report and other intelligence circulated among law enforcement, as well as weeks of public social media posts amplifying violent rhetoric, law enforcement “was not prepared for the massive groups of violent insurrectionists” that broke into the Capitol, she said.
From the former president’s rally at the Ellipse, Ms Pittman said roughly 10,000 people moved towards the Capitol, and roughly 800 people made it inside.
She said 35 officers are under investigation and six have had their police powers suspended following the attack.