“It is clear that more must be done to prevent, penetrate and prevent deadly and seditious attacks by violent domestic extremists in the days to come,” the statement said.
Lawmakers expressed concern moments after a public briefing from the FBI and the Department of Justice revealed their belief that the January 6 violence could be part of a much more serious and well-organized “seditious conspiracy.”
Security at the Capitol has tightened dramatically after the deadly insurgency last Wednesday. Before the riots, President Donald Trump encouraged crowds of his supporters – some equipped with homemade bombs and other weapons – to march to Capitol Hill and prevent lawmakers from certifying the election. Events revealed a dangerously ill-prepared resort, members and staff who had viewed it as perhaps the safest place in Washington.
As of Tuesday afternoon, metal detectors were placed at the entrances to the House chamber, a sign of potential risks that remain for members and their staff as Washington braces for a critical vote to impeach Trump on Wednesday. Democratic staff, who were briefed on the changes on a Tuesday call, said all members must be screened before walking on the floor and may be refused entry if they refuse.
Fear is especially heightened around inauguration day, with the FBI publicly warning of armed protests in all states before January 20. On Tuesday, Capitol Police announced major street closures that would last until grand opening day, and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser urged people not to come to town for the event.
“Last week’s attack may not have been a one-time event,” House Rules Committee chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) Said Tuesday. “There are still serious concerns about another attack here in Washington, DC, and in every corner of this country.”
Senator Rob Portman, who has also attended high-level briefings, added in a statement Tuesday that threats of further violence were “deeply concerning.”
Portman also said Trump “bears some responsibility for what happened on January 6,” and he called on the president to “explicitly urge his supporters to remain peaceful and refrain from all violence.”
Lawmakers, who were already on high alert, are increasingly concerned about multiple reports of specific plots against members. An FBI report, first reported by The Washington Post, said that an online chat user shared a map of the Capitol Tunnels, while others called for a “war” on the building.
Many members were already reporting an increase in personal threats from Trump supporters and worried about an increase in violence, with the president refusing to take responsibility for instigating last Wednesday’s insurgency and warned that the impeachment vote would only exacerbate his base.
Some of the warnings to lawmakers have been so cruel that a small number of members – especially those who spent those terrifying minutes barricaded inside the chamber on Wednesday – began to discuss the possibility of avoiding an inauguration in nobody. Most members, however, still plan to attend.
“It is important to understand that the inauguration is treated as a national security event,” Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn) said Tuesday in an interview.
“I plan to be there,” she said. “I think the inauguration is the most important symbol in our country of the peaceful transfer of power. People must be able to see it. ”
Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, an elderly Democrat who attended a private security briefing in President Nancy Pelosi’s office on Tuesday, also said she was “confident” the Capitol would be securely locked for the day. inauguration.
“I think they have it under control,” DeLauro told reporters. “I mean, the worry is obvious from Wednesday, but that’s what you do with the worry and that’s what they’re dealing with.”
Presidential inaugurations are generally among the safest events in the country, with federal police teams preparing for years. The Congressional Joint Committee on Groundbreaking Ceremonies on Tuesday reiterated its intention to hold the event on Capitol Hill, noting that its security forces “were working around the clock” on preparations.
“We will swear in President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris on the Western Front of the United States Capitol on January 20, 2021,” the planning committee wrote in a statement.
Yet lawmakers are increasingly concerned that pro-Trump rioters are considering Biden’s inauguration, or even this week’s impeachment vote, to continue their terror campaign to impose further destruction.
During Monday night’s appeal, Democrats were warned that various groups – including Patriot Action for America, the Proud Boys and those involved in the Million Militia March – were potentially targeting the Capitol, the White House and the Supreme Court in the next few days, according to people on call. They were told that DC officials would release additional details on the safety of the inauguration in the coming days.
Officials also took advantage of the call to define new security measures. As of Monday, Capitol Hill security closed all buildings to members and employees only, while many offices have asked even more of their staff to work from home. Officers from half a dozen different units – including members of the National Guard – patrol both the Capitol and the surrounding streets.
“It’s not just a crisis and an emergency. This is a continuing crisis and emergency, ”Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) Said Tuesday, citing growing threats from pro-Trump militias and others in the coming days. “It’s not over yet.”
“Can we say that we feel safe in the hands of this president, with the horror and threats returning to our nation’s capital?” Raskin added.
Washington, and the Capitol in particular, have been on high alert since Wednesday. Officials quickly erected fences to secure the perimeter of the huge complex, where members of the public were usually able to walk between the Capitol and its various office buildings. Crews were seen adding more panels to these fences on Tuesday, making them even taller.
Meanwhile, Capitol Hill police have also stationed their agents at regional airports, in an attempt to protect lawmakers who have been bombed, and sometimes threatened, upon arrival and departure from Washington.
Lawmakers and their staff have demanded more information from the Capitol Police and other agencies on how to defend themselves and their offices – an extremely complex task as all 535 Congressional offices function as separate entities.
Many are privately enraged that they haven’t received any detailed briefing on Wednesday’s attack.
“I received no in-depth briefing on what happened, why it happened, and where it happened,” Smith said ahead of the Senators’ inauguration briefing. “Just like the American people have not received any briefing. It shocks me that we had an armed attack on the United States Capitol and there was no transparent discussion of what happened.
Kyle Cheney and Heather Caygle contributed to this report.