US officials on Wednesday alerted lawmakers to a potential threat against the US Capitol on March 4, for which security has been enhanced as a precaution, less than two months after the Capitol complex was stormed and lawmakers’ lives were threatened by rioters.
The House changed its voting schedule in light of Capitol Police warning about the security risks, deciding to hold a vote on a police reform bill Wednesday night rather than Thursday as planned.
Information provided by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security warned of increased chatter among extremists, including members of the Three Percenters extremist group, discussing possible plots against the Capitol on March 4, a date that conspiracy theorists have focused on, according to sources familiar with the matter.
But even as security is increased, law enforcement says it is not clear the discussion has moved beyond talk among members. One source noted to CNN that it is mostly online talk and not necessarily an indication anyone is coming to Washington to act on it.
During a Senate hearing Wednesday, Melissa Smislova, the acting intelligence chief of the Department of Homeland Security, confirmed to lawmakers that the DHS and FBI had internally issued a joint intelligence bulletin about “extremists discussing March 4, and March 6.”
The bulletin also warned of threats to President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress. Presidents typically do not deliver an official State of the Union address in the opening months of their first term, but Biden’s administration has considered an address later this year.
US Capitol Police issued a statement Wednesday saying it obtained intelligence of a “possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4.”
The department said it is “aware of and prepared for any potential threats towards members of Congress or towards the Capitol complex” and that it has made “significant security upgrades,” including adding a physical structure and more manpower.
USCP acting chief Yoganada Pittman also told Congress earlier Wednesday that her department had “concerning intelligence” regarding the next few days in Congress – but said it wouldn’t be “prudent” of her to share the “law-enforcement sensitive” intelligence in a public hearing or public format.
Pittman assured lawmakers, though, that her department is in an “enhanced” security posture and that the National Guard and Capitol Police have been briefed on what to expect in the coming days.
Acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett told members in a memo on Monday obtained by CNN that while they are enhancing security out of precaution, “at this time the USCP has no indication that groups will travel to Washington DC to protest or commit acts of violence.”
Blodgett wrote they will post additional officers throughout the Capitol grounds. He also said that the significance “has reportedly declined amongst various groups in recent days.”
QAnon conspiracy theorists believe former President Donald Trump will be inaugurated on March 4, returning him to the presidency. Between 1793 and 1933, inauguration often fell on March 4 or a surrounding date.
Sen. Alex Padilla, a California Democrat, told CNN in response to the FBI and DHS warning that he and his colleagues take the threat “very seriously.”
“There’s a reason why there’s still National Guard servicewomen and men deployed at the Capitol at this time, and the fencing and the barrier we see,” Padilla said in an interview earlier Wednesday.
“It’s because of what happened on January 6. We still have yet to hold everybody accountable for what happened on the sixth. And we still haven’t made the many changes necessary to secure the Capitol going forward. So this is evolving in very real time. Frankly, this information from DHS may be officially new but not really surprising.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi, Geneva Sands, Christina Carrega, Josh Campbell, Peter Nickeas, Annie Grayer and Kristin Wilson contributed to this report.