WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal law enforcement officials are considering a number of threats against members of Congress as the second trial of former President Donald Trump approaches, including ominous chatter about the killing of lawmakers or their attack outside the US Capitol, a US official told the Associated press.
Threats and fears that armed protesters may return to fire Capitol again have prompted U.S. Capitol police and other federal law enforcement to urge thousands of National Guard troops to remain in Washington while the Senate moves forward with plans for the Trump trial, the official said.
The shocking Capitol uprising by a pro-Trump mob has prompted federal officials to rethink security in and around its landmarks, leading to an unprecedented blockade of Biden̵
Like those intercepted by investigators before Biden’s inauguration, the threats tracked by law enforcement officials vary in specificity and credibility, the official was informed. Mainly posted online and in chat groups, reports include plots to attack members of Congress during a trip to and from the Capitol complex during the trial, according to the official.
The official was not authorized not to discuss the ongoing investigation in public and to speak to the PA on condition of anonymity.
Law enforcement officials are already planning to return armed protesters to the country’s capital when the Trump Senate trial on charges of inciting a violent uprising begins the week of February 8. This would be the first trial for the impeachment of a former US president.
Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 when Congress gathered to certify Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential race. It is estimated that more than 800 made their way to the Capitol during the brutal siege, passing past overloaded police officers. Capitol police said they were planning a protest for free speech, not a riot, and were caught unprepared, despite intelligence that the rally would turn into a riot. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher.
Although much of the security apparatus around Washington set up after the uprising and before Biden’s inauguration – which included dozens of military checkpoints and hundreds of additional law enforcement officers – is no longer available, some 7,000 members of the National Guard federal law enforcement will remain to help, officials said.
The security bureau said the number of DC members in the DC was less than 20,000 as of Sunday. All but about 7,000 of them will return home in the coming days. The Bureau of Security said the number of troops in DC will continue to decline in the coming weeks to about 5,000. They are expected to remain in DC until mid-March.
At least five people facing federal charges have suggested they believed they were taking orders from Trump when they headed to Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 to challenge Biden’s testimony. But now those comments, made in interviews with reporters and federal agents, are likely to be central when Democrats present their case.
More than 130 people have been accused by federal prosecutors of their roles in the riot. In recent weeks, others have been arrested following threats against members of Congress.
These include a Proud Boys supporter who authorities say threatened to deploy “three cars full of armed patriots” in Washington, threatened Senator Rafael Warnock, Georgia, and who is accused of storing military-style knives and more than 1,000 rounds at his home in New York. This week, a Texas man was arrested for participating in the Capitol riot and for making violent threats, including a call to assassinate the Republic of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, DN.Y
Associated Press writer Lolita K. Baldor contributed to this report.