Police are on high alert around the US Capitol after intelligence uncovered a “possible” plot by a militia group tostorm the building.
The threat comes two months after a mob of Donald Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors to try to stop Congressfrom certifying now-president Joe Biden’s victory.
It appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory, mainly promoted by supporters of QAnon, that the former president willrise again to power on March 4 and that thousands will come to Washington DC to try to remove Democrats from office.
March 4 was the original presidential inauguration day until 1933, when it was moved to January 20.
Online chatter identified by authorities included discussionsamong members of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia group, concerning possible plots against the Capitol on Thursday, according totwo unnamed law enforcement officials.
Members of the Three Percenters were among the extremists who stormed the Capitol on January 6.
The threat came as the Capitol police and other law enforcementagencies were taking heat from Congress in contentious hearings thisweek about their poor handling of the January 6 riot.
Police were ill-prepared for the mass of Trump supporters intactical gear, some armed, and it took hours for National Guardreinforcements to come.
By then, rioters had broken and smashed their way into thebuilding and roamed the halls for hours, stalling Congress’scertification effort temporarily and sending politicians into hiding.
“The United States Capitol Police Department is aware of andprepared for any potential threats towards members of Congress ortowards the Capitol complex,” Capitol Police said in a statement.
Politicians, congressional staffers and law enforcement officialsare still on edge after the January 6 attack, even as security aroundthe Capitol remains at an unprecedented level.
About 5,200 National Guard members remain in DC, the remainder ofthe roughly 26,000 that were brought in for President Biden’sinauguration that went off with no problems.
There is also a large fence around the US Capitol perimeter thatwalls off all avenues of entry including on the streets around thebuilding, put in place after the riot.
A former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee whowas among those briefed about a possible new threat against the Capitolsaid politicians were braced for it.
Republican Representative Michael McCaul said he thought “we’ll see some violence”.
Mr McCaul warned there could be another diversionary tactic -much like the pipe bombs discovered at the political campaign offices onJanuary 6 appeared to be an attempt to lure law enforcement away fromthe Capitol ahead of the insurrection.