Top lawmakers alarmed by torrent of new threats

Top lawmakers say they are increasingly alarmed by a rash of new threats that could once again endanger their lives on the job, days before the U.S. Capitol braces for potentially huge crowds for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Chilling details of these ongoing threats have emerged in a series of private lawmaker briefings this week, including one on Monday night in which Capitol Police and other officials warned House Democrats of multiple plots to harm lawmakers, according to several people who listened to the call. On Tuesday, senators received their own briefing from representatives of the Secret Service, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, and a key group of House Democratic chairs separately met with the FBI.

“Based on today’s briefing, we have grave concerns about ongoing and violent threats to our democracy,” that group of Democratic chairs said in a cryptic statement after the meeting on Tuesday. The briefing included the chairs and other top members of the House Oversight, Judiciary, Homeland Security, Armed Services and Intelligence panels.

 

“It is clear that more must be done to preempt, penetrate, and prevent deadly and seditious assaults by domestic violent extremists in the days ahead,” the statement said.

The lawmakers voiced their concerns moments after a public FBI and Justice Department briefing revealed their belief that the Jan. 6 violence could be part of a much graver, well-organized “seditious conspiracy.”

Security at the Capitol has tightened in dramatic fashion after last Wednesday’s deadly insurrection. Before the riots, President Donald Trump encouraged mobs of his supporters — some equipped with pipe bombs and other weapons — to march to the Capitol and stop lawmakers from certifying the election. The events exposed a dangerously ill-prepared complex, rattling members and staff who had considered it perhaps the most secure place in D.C.

By Tuesday afternoon, metal detectors had been stationed at the entrances of the House chamber, a sign of the potential risks that remain for members and their staff as Washington prepares for a critical vote to impeach Trump on Wednesday. Democratic staff, who were briefed on the changes on a call Tuesday, said all members must be screened before walking on the floor and can be denied entry if they refuse.


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