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Capitol Police Chief is pleading with the National Guard to stay.

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The Capitol Police Chief is pleading with the National Guard to stay.

 

Concerned about ongoing attacks, the acting chief of the United States Capitol Police has urged congressional leaders to use their clout to hold National Guard troops at the Capitol two months after the deadly Jan. 6 insurgency’s law enforcement breakdowns.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, Yogananda Pittman told the leaders that the board that oversees her department has so far refused to extend an emergency declaration needed by the Pentagon to hold Guardsmen who have aided Capitol officers since the riot on the job.

Pittman said she wanted the leaders’ help with the Capitol Police Board, which is made up of three members and reports to them. She claims the board has sent her a list of steps it needs her to take, but she isn’t sure whether the points are directives or just suggestions.

The letter highlighted the uncertainty over how to better defend the Capitol following a shoddy lack of security in January and harsh criticism of law enforcement’s handling of the invasion.

It also came as authorities spent the day on high alert, anticipating a “possible plot” by a paramilitary group to storm the building again, two months after Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors in an insurgency intended to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

The list included a partial elimination of the intimidating fence encircling the Capitol grounds beginning Monday, as well as a reduction of the National Guard to 900 troops from the existing 5,200 in Washington.

The police want to keep the fence in place indefinitely. Pittman stated in her letter that she would request a deployment reduction “based on the threat landscape and physical and organizational protection capabilities.”

The Pentagon was evaluating a Capitol Police proposal to hold up to 2,200 Guardsmen at the Capitol for another 60 days, according to the Associated Press. Pittman had officially made the suggestion to the Pentagon, according to a police release.

Before Jan. 6 and even as rioters were storming the house, a similar conflict erupted between the Capitol Police and its board. The Capitol Police Board, which is made up of the sergeants at arms of the House and Senate, as well as the architect of the Capitol, is in charge of overseeing the police force.

Following warnings that white nationalist and far-right groups would threaten the building to disrupt the certification of Biden’s election victory over outgoing President Donald Trump, Steven Sund, the now-former Capitol Police chief, testified to Congress that he decided to order the Guard two days before the invasion. Sund did not ask Paul Irving, who worked on the Capitol Police Board as House sergeant-at-arms, to call the Guard.

As rioters rushed the house, breaching police lines and knocking over officers unprepared to fend them off, Sund testified that he repeatedly pleaded for the Guard to be called. Just before 2 p.m., he called the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, who testified that the Defense Department had postponed the request for assistance. Hundreds of rioters marauded through the building and fled without being arrested until the appeal was accepted after 5 p.m.

The riot claimed the lives of five people, including a Capitol Police officer and a Trump supporter who was shot by police.

Despite alerts of new trouble, there were no signs of unrest at the heavily guarded building on Thursday. There was also no indication that a large group was planning to travel to Washington.

The most recent threat seemed to be linked to a far-right conspiracy theory, mostly pushed by QAnon supporters, that former Trump would reclaim power on March 4 and that tens of thousands would descend on Washington to try to depose Democrats. Until 1933, when it was shifted to Jan. 20, the original presidential inauguration day was March 4.

Trump, on the other hand, was in Florida, thousands of miles away. The National Mall in Washington was almost empty on one of the warmest days in weeks, save for a few joggers, photographers, and visitors attempting to photograph the Capitol dome through the fencing.

According to two law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk publicly, online chatter reported by authorities included conversations among members of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia group, about potential plots against the Capitol on Thursday. Among the extremists who invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6 were members of the Three Percenters.

However, federal agents discovered no major changes in the number of hotel rooms rented in Washington, as well as flights, car rental reservations, or charter bus reservations. On extremist websites, online talk about the day was dwindling.

Law enforcement briefed U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, on the potential danger, and he said lawmakers were prepared for whatever could happen.

“We have razor wire and the National Guard,” says the narrator. On January 6, we didn’t have it. As a result, I have a lot of faith in the security,” he said.

Those steps, though, aren’t indefinite. Following news that some troops were forced to take rest breaks in parking garages or were served rotten food, some states have threatened to withdraw their Guardsmen. Other Guardsmen also confirmed that they were fed well and that vegan and halal diets were accommodated.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, which sent 1,000 soldiers, said she “had no intention of committing to an extension of this deployment.”

Meanwhile, despite the fact that such allegations have been refuted by judges and Trump’s own attorney general, Trump continues to spread lies that the election was stolen from him by mass voter fraud. On social media and in a heated speech on Jan. 6 in which he implored thousands of supporters to “fight like hell,” he repeatedly told those lies. Many of those supporters finally made their way to the Capitol grounds, where they outran officers and forced their way into the house.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump on charges of incitement to insurgency, but the Senate acquitted him. For their involvement in the riot, over 300 people have been charged with federal crimes so far.

Many national and local Republicans have repeated Trump’s election rhetoric, sharing online messages about voter fraud and challenging the validity of Biden’s win.

“A years-long epidemic of false theories fueling violence,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

“On the specifics of today’s threats, the FBI and DHS have cautioned that the threat of domestic violent extremism, especially racially motivated and anti-government extremists, did not begin or end on January 6,” she said Thursday.

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