Federal law enforcement say they have intelligence showing that militant extremists are plotting another possible attack on the United States Capitol and that it could happen Thursday, prompting House leadership Wednesday afternoon to cancel its Thursday session as a precaution.
In a statement Wednesday morning, the United States Capitol Police Department said it is "aware of and prepared for any potential threats towards members of Congress or towards the Capitol complex. We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4."
USCP leadership say they are taking the threat very seriously and note that they have already made 'significant' security upgrades and are increasing manpower "to ensure the protection of Congress, the public and our police officers."
In an unclassified Joint Intelligence Bulletin (JIB) dated March 2, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI warn that "[a]s of late February, an unidentified group of MVEs [militant violent extremists] discussed plans to take control of the US Capitol and remove Democratic lawmakers on or about 4 March and discussed aspirational plans to persuade thousands to travel to Washington, DC, to participate...MVEs also have allegedly threatened an attack against the US Capitol using explosives to kill as many members of Congress as possible during the upcoming State of the Union address, according the US Capitol Police Chief."
President Biden's address to a joint session of Congress has not yet been scheduled.
The new threats come as Congress continues its investigation into the January 6 Capitol breach. Wednesday, in a joint hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Senate Rules Committees, Senators drilled down into the thorny issue of the assistance the National Guard provided to Capitol and DC Police.
"We must get to the bottom of why that very day it took the Defense Department so long to deploy the National Guard," stated Sen. Amy Klobuchar, (D) Rules Committee Chairwoman. "Once the need for reinforcements became patently clear on every TV screen in America."
The testimony from the four witnesses, representing the National Guard, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and FBI, seemed to point to poor communication between agencies and bureaucratic chain of command that, perhaps needlessly, delayed the deployment of more than a hundred Guard members to the Capitol.
"Three hours and nineteen minutes, from the first call--plea, really," said a stunned Sen. Rob Portman, (R) Ohio. "You have Chief of Police Sund saying, 'Help, we need help, now.' Three hours and nineteen minutes -- that can't happen again. Do you agree with that?"
Representing the DoD, Robert Selasses said, "Senator, I do."
At the first hearing on the insurrection last week, Oklahoma Senator James Lankford brought up several issues related to law enforcement's response to the siege. In an interview, he suggested too much was being made of the Guard's 'slow' response time.
Wednesday, Sen. Lankford questioned the DHS witness about the intelligence reports the agency routinely puts out and suggested law enforcement's posture January 6th might have been more aggressive if the intelligence report DHS put out days beforehand, which included warnings of a possible assault on the Capitol, had been more pointed.
"It looks very standard -- here are the risks, here are the things that we're seeing," Sen. Lankford explained. "There doesn't seem to be something that would say, 'Hey, this is higher than normal.' If I can use the intel term, it seems to be 'chatter.'"
Melissa Smislova, an assistant to the DHS Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, said Lankford made a valid point and said they would look at ways to make potentially critical intelligence more noticeable.