Far-right extremist groups that took part in the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6 are now threatening to “blow up” the U.S. Capitol during President Biden’s upcoming State of the Union address, according to intelligence revealed Thursday during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
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Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman called on lawmakers to maintain strict security measures that were put in place after the riot to protect Congress, saying her agency was aware of chatter and planning among antigovernment militias who aim “to send a symbolic message to the nation as to who was in charge of the legislative process.”
“We know that members of the militia groups that were present on Jan. 6 have stated their desire 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,” Pittman said during her testimony. “Based on that information,” she said, it’s “prudent that Capitol Police maintain its enhanced security posture until we address those issues going forward.”
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Pittman said intelligence sources, likely inside the FBI, first became aware of the recent threats on encrypted internet forums.
The scope and seriousness of the current threat remains unclear.
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Since last month’s siege, fencing, razor wire and National Guard units were deployed and are likely to remain as a deterrent to any future attacks and until security failures that happened during the riot have been fully addressed, Pittman said. During the hearing, several congress members pressed Pittman on the removal of the fortress-like measures, which GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington said “makes the seat of democracy look like a military base,” according to Politico.
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Pittman, who replaced Steven Sund upon his resignation as chief following the assault, also attempted to clarify the timeline of the riot, including when Sund first called the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms to report a problem, which remains in dispute.
As the rioters breached security, Sund said he requested backup six times but that each time he was denied.
Sund’s bosses, on the other hand, said additional law enforcement support was available but that no one at the Capitol requested it, as is usual protocol.
Lawmakers are continuing to try to make sense of discrepancies and numerous communication breakdowns that inadvertently allowed supporters of then-President Donald Trump to storm the building, leaving a police officer and four others dead. They are also looking into why it took several hours for the National Guard troops to respond to the siege.
Senators have requested additional phone records to get to the bottom of what happened, Politico reported.
The White House has not yet set a date for Biden’s State of the Union, however, reports say the president will delay the address before a joint session of Congress until after the passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
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