Threat against US Capitol fizzles, but officials seek 2 more months of National Guard help

  • National Guard troops keep watch at the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, early Thursday, March 4, 2021, amid intelligence warnings that there is a "possible plot" by a group of militia extremists to take control of the Capitol on March 4 to remove Democrats from power. The threat comes nearly two months after thousands of supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in a violent insurrection as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden's electoral win. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — Capitol police and security officials are seeking a renewed emergency declaration to extend the National Guard presence at the U.S. Capitol possibly into May, according to a person familiar.

About 5,000 National Guard troops still on deployment in Washington since the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol are set to return home by March 12, and a new emergency declaration would allow them to remain for another two months, the person said. The exact strength or footprint of the Guard during that time could change, but some presence will likely stay in place to allow for a quick response if needed, the person said.

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The Capitol Police force is required to make a formal request to the National Guard Bureau for an extension of the troops’ presence.

Tensions were raised this week amid warnings of another planned attack on the Capitol Thursday by a right-wing militia group, but by midday that threat had not panned out. Nevertheless, the House canceled plans for votes and other events late Wednesday as a result of the threat, which was cited in alerts by the FBI, Homeland Security and Capitol Police. The Senate remained in session.

Law enforcement officials from various federal agencies say there are continuing security threats to the Capitol building and lawmakers. The National Guard forces still deployed at the Capitol come in addition to a barrier of fencing and razor wire established around the complex after a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the building on Jan. 6.

Robert Salesses, an acting assistant defense secretary, told two Senate committees on Wednesday that military officials do not yet know how long National Guard troops will stay at the Capitol. He said a meeting is planned next week on the subject.

During a news conference Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said deployment decisions are up to security officials.

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But Pelosi added that there is now a draft report of an initial security review headed by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré of the Capitol Complex security in the wake of the January assault.

National Guard spokeswoman Darla Torres said there hasn’t been any decision on extension requests. She said that approval would come from the secretary of Defense.

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