POLITICS

Capitol Police Request That National Guard Extend Stay In Washington By 60 Days

The request, reported by multiple outlets, comes amid heightened security in response to a another potential extremist plot to attack the Capitol complex.

The U.S. Capitol Police have reportedly requested that the National Guard extend its stay in the capital by two months amid renewed concerns about violent threats to the already-fortified Capitol complex.

The Pentagon is currently reviewing the department’s request ― which The Associated Press first reported and other outlets later confirmed ― with the Guard beginning to solicit states for available troops in preparation for Pentagon approval. 

The current deployment is scheduled to expire on March 12, with more than 5,000 Guard members still in Washington, D.C.

National Guard troops patrol the East Front of the Capitol on March 4, 2021. 
National Guard troops patrol the East Front of the Capitol on March 4, 2021. 

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), whose state deployed some of its Guard members to Washington, released a statement Thursday morning saying her contacts at the National Guard had told her about a request from Capitol Police for a 60-day extension of the troops providing security in and around the complex.

“No one likes seeing the fortress-like security around the Capitol. And no one wants to again have a security problem in and around this symbolic place,” she said. “But whether an extension has been requested or the mission is indeed terminating on March 12, it’s critical that members of Congress get a briefing on what’s behind these decisions.”

“We all have the same goal: to get back to the point where Capitol Police is capable of protecting us without the Guard’s help, and all parties feel confident we can protect the people’s business,” Slotkin continued, adding that she learned the request had been made in the last 36 hours.

Neither the Capitol Police nor the D.C. Guard responded to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Security is still a concern at the Capitol two months after armed supporters of former President Donald Trump carried out a deadly insurrection that damaged the complex and forced lawmakers to evacuate their chambers. FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress on Tuesday that the domestic terrorism on Jan. 6 was “metastasizing across the county.”

On Thursday, security around the Capitol heightened after intelligence revealed a potential plot by far-right extremists to attack the complex again. The potential threat is tied to the QAnon conspiracy theory that Trump will regain power on March 4.

U.S. Capitol Police and National Guard troops conduct a security briefing on Independence Avenue on March 4, 2021. 
U.S. Capitol Police and National Guard troops conduct a security briefing on Independence Avenue on March 4, 2021. 

The Capitol Police released a statement on Wednesday regarding the increased security, saying the department is working with “local, state and federal partners” to prevent any attacks on the Capitol. The statement did not mention the reported request to extend the National Guard’s stay by two months.

“We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, 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 threat had not materialized as of Thursday evening, though the House canceled its session out of caution. When asked if there was any additional information about the potential plot, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the FBI and Department of Homeland Security had warned that “the threat from domestic violent extremism, particularly racially motivated and anti-government extremists, did not begin or end on Jan.6.”

“I’m not going to outline any security steps from here at any point in time, but I can say that … the president personally remains deeply engaged in tracking these threats, in receiving regular updates ― as he does from his team ― about threats, of course, but about incidents happening across the country,” she said. “It’s something he is personally engaged in.”

Asked at a press conference on Thursday about the Capitol Police’s reported request for more National Guard troops, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that “decisions about security are made by the security leadership here, and we’ll see what the ask is.”

“We should have them here as long as they are needed, and the silliness of this being ‘Inauguration Day’ … falls into the realm of let’s not waste our time on it,” she said. “We have to have what we need, and when we need it, and in the numbers we need it. But that’s a security decision.”