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US Capitol Police braces for ‘possible’ attack on Congress

The US Capitol Police is bracing for a fresh assault on Congress on Thursday after receiving an intelligence warning of a “possible” plot by a militia group just two months after supporters of Donald Trump stormed the complex. 

The warning came as leaders in the House of Representatives cancelled plans for a session on Thursday, moving all previously scheduled votes to Wednesday evening and clearing the floor of official business for the rest of the week.

The law enforcement agency — which has come under scrutiny for its failure to protect the US Capitol on January 6 — said it was “aware of and prepared for” threats towards members of Congress and the building on March 4.

“We have already made significant security upgrades to include establishing a physical structure and increasing manpower to ensure the protection of Congress, the public and our police officers,” the police force said in a statement, adding that it was working with state, local and federal partners. 

Tim Ryan, a Democratic congressman from Ohio who chairs the subcommittee overseeing the US Capitol Police, said he had been briefed on the potential security threat.

Ryan said the intelligence indicated “additional interest in the Capitol . . . by a militia group” on March 4 to 6, surrounding what some conspiracy theorists believe to be the “true inauguration day”.

“It is heartbreaking that the United States Capitol continues to be a target — not by foreign adversaries — but by our fellow Americans,” he added.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment on whether it was aware of credible threats to the Capitol.

The FBI, which wrote a memo in January warning of the threat to the Capitol building, said that it did not comment on specific intelligence threats but that it was “constantly gathering and sharing intelligence” with law enforcement partners.

Hundreds of Trump supporters overwhelmed US Capitol Police officers to storm the Capitol building and disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory in January.

A series of Congressional hearings into the security failures that preceded the January 6 attack — which left many lawmakers fearing for their lives — suggest that crucial intelligence did not make it up the chain of command at either the Capitol police or the Washington DC’s metropolitan police.

The FBI and DHS have recently warned of a rising tide of domestic extremism. In January, the DHS issued a report on terrorist threats in which it said there was a heightened risk of attacks by “ideologically-motivated violent extremists” on US soil in the wake of Biden’s inauguration.

Testifying before Congress on Tuesday, Christopher Wray, FBI director, said the number of domestic extremist cases being pursued by the bureau had risen “significantly” over the past year.

Wray confirmed to senators that some of the rioters involved in the January 6 siege were categorised as “militia”, and in some instances, “racially motivated violent extremists who advocate for the superiority of the white race”.

Meanwhile, the commanding general of the DC National Guard on Wednesday said that the Pentagon had placed restrictions on him in the run-up to the January riot that prevented him from quickly sending forces in to tackle the violence.

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