Militia members want to blow up Capitol when Biden addresses Congress, chief says

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WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The acting chief of the U.S. Capitol police says there will continue to be enhanced law enforcement presence at the Capitol due to the threat of a possible attack during President Joe Biden’s 2021 Joint Address to Congress.

“We know that members of the militia groups that were present on January 6th have stated their desires that they want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible with a direct nexus to the State of the Union,” Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman stated when asked about lingering security measures at the Capitol.

“So based on that information, we think that it’s prudent that Capitol Police maintain its enhanced and robust security posture until we address those vulnerabilities going forward,” she added.

A date has not been set for the address yet, but Pittman did say fencing and the National Guard would be removed from the Capitol once the threat had passed.

Pittman testified before a House panel Thursday that law enforcement was aware of the possibility of violence from armed extremists on Jan. 6, but did not know of any credible threat of a potential invasion of the U.S. Capitol.

During the hearing before the House Appropriations subcommittee, Pittman was pressed to explain why the agency wasn’t prepared despite compelling advance intelligence presented three days before the riot.

The panel’s top Republican, Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler, said the top Capitol Police officials “either failed to take seriously the intelligence received or the intelligence failed to reach the right people.”

Pittman denied law enforcement failed to take warnings of violence seriously on the day of the Capitol insurrection, but conceded that the agency’s incident command protocols were “not adhered to,” and that there was a “multi-tiered failure.”

In prepared remarks given Thursday, Pittman said intelligence collected ahead of the Capitol assault did indicate the gathering would have the participation of armed militia members, white supremacists and “other extremist groups.”

In this Feb. 2, 2021 file photo, acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman pays respects to U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

“There was no such intelligence. Although we knew the likelihood for violence by extremists, no credible threat indicated that tens of thousands would attack the U.S. Capitol, nor did the intelligence received from the FBI or any other law enforcement partner indicate such a threat,” Pittman said.

Pittman said police didn’t have enough intelligence to predict the violent insurrection that resulted in five deaths, including that of a Capitol Police officer. They prepared for trouble but not an invasion.

The intelligence collected before the riot prompted police to take extraordinary measures, including the special arming of officers, intercepting radio frequencies used by the invaders and deploying spies at the Ellipse, said Pittman.

She later said that “to stop a mob of tens of thousands requires more than a police force, it requires physical infrastructure or a regiment of soldiers.”

Pittman was the assistant chief of police of the department’s Protective and Intelligence Operations on Jan. 6 and said she was responsible for its Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division (IICD).

Later, under questioning by the House subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Tim Ryan, Pittman said that while there may have been thousands of people heading to the Capitol from a pro-Trump rally, about 800 people actually made their way into the building.

Trump supporters saw Jan. 6 as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election and that “may lead to more of an incentive to become violent,” the IICD said in an assessment issued on Jan. 3, according to Pittman.

“While the Department was prepared to neutralize and remove individuals or groups engaging in civil disobedience or violence among the demonstrators, it was quickly overwhelmed by the thousands of insurrectionists (many armed) who immediately and without provocation began attacking officers, bypassing physical barriers, and refusing to comply with lawful orders,” Pittman added.

Pittman also said the department faced “internal challenges” as it responded to the riot. Officers didn’t properly lock down the Capitol complex, even after an order had been given over the radio to do so. She also said officers didn’t understand when they were allowed to use deadly force, and that less-than-lethal weapons that officers had were not as successful as they expected.

While Pittman said in her testimony that sergeants and lieutenants were supposed to pass on intelligence to the department’s rank and file, many officers have said they were given little or no information or training for what they would face.

She added that the rioters “weren’t only interested in attacking members and officers. They wanted to send a symbolic message to the nation as to who was in charge of that legislative process.”

READ THE FULL PREPARED TESTIMONY BELOW:

Supporters of Trump stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s electoral victory over the former Republican president, who spread unfounded claims that the November election had been marred by widespread fraud.

A range of election officials across the country including Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed there was no widespread fraud in the election. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to Biden’s victory, also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies were dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-nominated justices.

The Capitol attack delayed the certification of Biden’s win by several hours, as lawmakers were forced to flee to seek safety from the angry mob that overwhelmed security forces. Five people died in the violence.

More than 200 people have been charged so far for their roles in the riot, including some with ties to far-right fringe groups such as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.

Pittman testified Thursday that 35 USCP officers are under investigation and six have been suspended with police powers revoked for misconduct on Jan. 6. She said the investigation should conclude in two to three months.

An FBI warning that a protest by Trump supporters could turn violent reached the U.S. Capitol Police the day before the assault, but top officials in charge of securing Congress that day did not see it, they told lawmakers on Tuesday.

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