Capitol Police acting Chief Yogananda Pittman testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday that threats to members of Congress have increased by 93.5% within the first two months of 2021, compared to the same time period last year.
And from 2017 to 2020, Pittman said there has been a 118.66% increase in “total threats and directions of interests,” with the overwhelming majority of suspects residing outside the National Capital Region (NCR) in Washington, D.C.
“On the Capitol Complex, the level of existential threats to the U.S. Capitol and Grounds are increasing as well,” Pittman said in her opening statement before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch. “This was abundantly clear on January 6, 2021, when insurrectionists attempted to prevent the Congress from certifying the 2020 Electoral College results by storming the U.S. Capitol.”
U.S. Capitol Police was forced to reevaluate its budget justification for the 2022 fiscal year following the events of Jan. 6, Pittman said. Instead of its initial assessment for a $36 million increase from the 2021 enacted level, the U.S. Capitol Police Department (CPD) is asking Congress for a $107 million bump amid emergency needs and emerging threats and risk.
As the possibility of a similar incident occurring “is a very real and present danger,” Pittman said the budget will fund specific changes including the implementation of a “dedicated standby ready force” of two platoons (80 officers) at all times, “thereby removing the Department’s full reliance on partner agencies for mission support when faced with an immediate threat event.”
In her testimony before the same House subcommittee last week, Pittman said that there was new intelligence suggesting militia groups that were present on Jan. 6 want to return to the Capitol to “blow up” the building and “kill as many members as possible” on the day President Biden addresses Congress.
Meanwhile, U.S. Capitol Police said Wednesday it “obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4.”
“We have already made significant security upgrades to include establishing a physical structure and increasing manpower to ensure the protection of Congress, the public and our police officers,” the department said in a statement publicly released Wednesday morning.
“We are taking the intelligence seriously,” it added, explaining that the department is working with local, state, and federal partners to stop any threats to the Capitol.
The department “is aware of and prepared for any potential threats towards members of Congress or towards the Capitol complex,” the statement said. “Due to the sensitive nature of this information, we cannot provide additional details at this time.”
QAnon conspiracy theorists purportedly believe former President Donald Trump will return to Washington, D.C., to reclaim power on March 4 — Inauguration Day prior to 1933, USA Today reported.
In response to the lessons learned on Jan. 6, Pittman said Wednesday that the department has revised its internal communications policies and processes, and has included emerging technologies and tools in this budget request to assist with effecting the ideal communications state to meet its mission.
The budget would also fund 2,112 sworn and 453 civilians, including 212 new sworn officers for mission-critical requirements, such as a standby quick response force, threat assessment agents and dignitary protection agents.