March 4 put Capitol on alert: Nancy Pelosi calls out QAnon conspiracy 'silliness'

Bart Jansen, USA TODAY
·4 min read

WASHINGTON - The House left town early, the Senate continued to debate a $1.9 trillion bill for coronavirus relief and U.S. Capitol Police braced for a potential security threat Thursday as a possible follow-up to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

National Guard troops formed a more visible presence at the U.S. Capitol complex on Thursday, with hundreds of troops unloading from a dozen large tour buses while carting long rifles, helmets and backpacks.

On Wednesday, Capitol police released a statement warning of a “possible plot to breach the Capitol by an unidentified militia group.” Downtown businesses warned tenants about potential protests.

More: Police bolster security at US Capitol as QAnon theory claims Trump will become president March 4

"The USCP is steadfast in ensuring that an incident of this nature will never occur again, especially with the realization that the possibility of a similar incident occurring in the current environment is a very real and present danger," acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman told lawmakers Wednesday.

An eight-foot tall steel fence topped with concertina razor wire circles the U.S. Capitol January 29, 2021 in Washington, DC.
An eight-foot tall steel fence topped with concertina razor wire circles the U.S. Capitol January 29, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Overall security at the Capitol, which was heightened after the Jan. 6 riot, appeared similar to weeks after that insurrection. Two large fences topped with barbed wire ringed the perimeter of complex. Troops lined the fences.

The threat comes nearly two months after U.S. Capitol riot by supporters of former President Donald Trump, which left five people dead. Rioters attacked police officers, injuring 160, and threatened the lives of former Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on the day Congress counted Electoral College votes for the 2020 presidential election.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Pelosi: Schedule wasn't changed over QAnon conspiracy

An unfounded QAnon conspiracy theory held that Trump would be inaugurated on March 4 because that was when administrations changed before the 20th Amendment was approved in the 1930s.

“The silliness of this being inauguration day and that the president may be inaugurated falls into the realm of let’s not waste our time on it,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi said her chamber avoided voting Thursday as a courtesy to Republicans rather than a security precaution.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted the House would not hold votes on March 4 not because of a conspiracy theory but because it helped the Republicans' schedule.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted the House would not hold votes on March 4 not because of a conspiracy theory but because it helped the Republicans' schedule.

More: House cancels Thursday session after police warn of 'possible plot to breach the Capitol'

“If in fact there are any troublemakers around, it made sense,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said at her weekly news conference. “I don’t think anybody should take any encouragement that because some troublemakers might show up, that we changed our schedule. No, we just moved it a few hours.”

Pelosi said Democrats held their annual issues conference virtually, earlier in the week. But Republicans planned to meet Thursday in person, so the House was going to complete voting by noon that day and instead chose to finish up for the week on Wednesday, she said.

“It was really just as a convenience,” Pelosi said, nothing to do with the conspiracy theory.

QAnon falsely alleges the existence of a satanic "deep state" apparatus that supports a child sex trafficking ring. Its followers played prominent roles in the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and previously were photographed at Trump rallies.

Related: What is QAnon?

Jacob Anthony Chansley aka Jake Angeli aka the QAnon shaman wears face paint and horns in the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He was later arrested and charged.
Jacob Anthony Chansley aka Jake Angeli aka the QAnon shaman wears face paint and horns in the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He was later arrested and charged.

More permanent security

Pelosi said the House would consider more permanent security measures next week in response to the Jan. 6 attack.

Lt. Gen. Russel Honore conducted a security review and has briefed congressional leaders.

Pelosi said lawmakers would have to balance better security with public access to the Capitol complex, despite the threat of domestic extremists.

“We have to ensure we are safe enough to do our job, but not impeding,” Pelosi said.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., said in a tweet that U.S. Capitol Police asked the National Guard for a 60-day extension of their mission, so the guard is soliciting states to send contributions. The current mission was scheduled to end March 12, she said.

Troops and law enforcement officers still guard access points, checking vehicles and security badges of people seeking to enter the complex.

The top Republican on the Senate Rules Committee, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, said he hasn’t been briefed on the National Guard staying another two months. But he said troops could relieve Capitol police officers and that “a couple of hundred” guard members remained around the Capitol for two years after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001.

“I do think that some active military police guard in a more permanent basis near the Capitol could be a good idea for the foreseeable future,” Blunt said.

Contributing: Christal Hayes, Nicholas Wu

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: March 4 threat puts Capitol on alert; Pelosi notes QAnon 'silliness'