U.S. Capitol Police says it has learned of a “possible plot to breach the Capitol” by a militia group on March 4.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the department said it has obtained intelligence about a potential plot that was apparently being planned by an “identified militia group.” The statement said authorities “are taking the intelligence seriously,” although citing the sensitive nature of the intelligence, they did not provide further details.
The department said it has already made “significant security upgrades” to the Capitol starting earlier this week because of concerning intelligence about conspiracy theorists who believe former President Donald Trump will return to power on March 4.
Some QAnon conspiracy theorists have said that Trump will be inaugurated on March 4, because that was the original Inauguration Day for presidents until 1933, when it was moved to Jan. 20.
- Follow WTOP’s coverage of the Capitol riot
- National security officials to testify on Jan. 6 mistakes
- FBI chief warns violent ‘domestic terrorism’ growing in US
The security upgrades include “establishing a physical structure and increasing manpower to ensure the protection of Congress, the public and our police officers,” the statement said.
FYI: Effective now, USSS Police has CLOSED the following Streets until further notice
⛔️17th St and 18th St, NW between Constitution Ave and H St, NW [Both directions]
*USSS will permit Emergency Vehicles access*
— DC Police Traffic (@DCPoliceTraffic) March 3, 2021
The new warning of a possible plot came as Defense Department officials and other national security leaders testified before the Senate on the agencies’ delayed response to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
The Defense Department reportedly took more than three hours to dispatch the National Guard to the deadly riot despite a frantic plea for reinforcement from police, according to prepared testimony.
In a separate hearing before a House subcommittee, Yogananda Pittman, the acting chief of the Capitol Police, said the number of threats that members of Congress have received in the first two months of this year compared with the same period last year has jumped by more than 93%.
Pittman also said there has been a 118% increase in total threats from 2017 to 2020.
She noted that the majority of the suspects behind those threats lived outside Washington, D.C.
While Pittman was testifying before the House, Capitol Police released the statement about the possible militia group plot. The revelation contradicted an earlier advisory from the House sergeant-at-arms that there was “no indication that groups will travel to Washington D.C. to protest or commit acts of violence.”
But that advisory was updated in a note to lawmakers Wednesday morning. The sergeant-at-arms wrote that 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.”
Security has been tight around the Capitol since the Jan. 6 riot that killed five people, led to hundreds of arrests and prompted several congressional hearings.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., said he was “very concerned” about potential threats Thursday and wasn’t sure whether the Capitol Police were adequately prepared to respond.
“I believe that there should be additional resources assigned to their efforts to sweep for explosives, for example,” he said. “And I don’t know to what degree that’s being done right now.”
Lawmakers were expected to be briefed later Wednesday by Capitol Police leadership in a closed session.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s released a statement on the possibility of violence returning to the Capitol building.
“After the violent insurrection on January 6th, we remain at a heightened level of vigilance and preparedness. HSEMA and MPD are in touch with federal partners on a regular basis to understand and assess the threats,” the statement reads. “MPD will deploy additional personnel in the coming days and put in place other measures. We call upon the public that if you see something, say something by calling 911 for emergencies, to report suspicious activity or behavior call 202-727-9099 or text MPD’s tip line at 50411.”
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray bluntly labeled the January siege of the U.S. Capitol as “domestic terrorism” and warned of a rapidly growing threat of homegrown violent extremism that law enforcement is scrambling to confront through thousands of investigations.
Wray firmly rejected false claims advanced by some Republicans that anti-Trump groups had organized the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.
WTOP’s Jack Moore, Zeke Hartner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.