US Capitol outer perimeter fencing to be removed this weekend

The outer fencing erected around the Capitol shortly after rioters stormed the building on January 6 will be removed this weekend, earlier than expected, according to the acting House sergeant-at-arms.

In a memo to members of Congress and congressional staff Friday obtained by CNN, acting Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett said the US Capitol Police in conjunction with the architect of the Capitol “will remove the outer perimeter fencing around the Capitol complex sooner than initially anticipated.”

The outer perimeter fencing will be taken down this weekend, allowing for traffic on Independence Avenue and Constitution Avenue by Monday. The memo says the decision was reached because “there does not exist a known, credible threat against Congress or the Capitol Complex that warrants the temporary security fencing.”

The fencing went up soon after insurrectionists stormed the building — leaving several people dead, including a Capitol Hill Police officer — and has remained in place since.

CNN had reported Sunday that the US Capitol Police intended to reduce the perimeter fencing within the next two weeks, according to an internal email, and was considering scaling back the National Guard presence at the Capitol. Law enforcement forces have been examining how to protect against threats amid a tense political climate and criticism from some lawmakers that the suggestions for long-range security are excessive.

The Capitol Police force still believes it is operating in a heightened threat environment due to the political climate and rise in domestic violent extremism, according to the email, but also maintains there is no known credible threat to Congress or to the Capitol. The police force said in the email that plans could change if officials learn of new threats.

On Capitol Hill, congressional leaders are discussing a new $2 billion funding package that would bolster security around the Capitol and shore up vulnerabilities exposed by the January 6 attack, according to sources familiar with the talks. A permanent fence around the Capitol, hundreds of new security personnel — either the National Guard or a military police presence — and new authorities for the District of Columbia’s National Guard to be dispatched in emergency situations are among the many details to consider, one of the sources said.

CNN reported last month that the US Capitol Police had told lawmakers the razor wire fencing around the Capitol should remain until at least September due to lingering security concerns related to threats against members of Congress, according to a source familiar with the plans.

US Capitol Police had asked to keep the fencing for an additional 180 days — an extension of a deadline set to expire in March, the source said, adding that the Capitol Police Board was reviewing the request.

Earlier this month, US officials alerted lawmakers to a potential threat against the Capitol. Information provided by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security warned of increased chatter among extremists, including members of the Three Percenters group, discussing possible plots against the Capitol on March 4, a date that conspiracy theorists had focused on, according to sources familiar with the matter.

But even as security was increased, law enforcement said it was not clear the discussion had moved beyond talk among members.

The House changed its voting schedule in light of Capitol Police warning about the security risks. Security was enhanced as a precaution, less than two months after the Capitol complex had been stormed and lawmakers’ lives threatened by rioters. Nothing out of the ordinary ended up happening at the Capitol on March 4.

This story has been updated with background information.

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