*

upload_article_image

Police uncover ‘possible plot’ by militia to breach Capitol

Capitol Police say they have intelligence showing a “possible plot” by a militia group to breach the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, nearly two months after a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the iconic building to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden's victory.

The threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory, mainly promoted by supporters of QAnon, that Trump will rise again to power on March 4. That was the original presidential inauguration day until 1933, when it was moved to Jan. 20.

The revelation was detailed in a statement from the Capitol Police. It comes at the same time the acting police chief is testifying before a House subcommittee.

“The United States Capitol Police Department is aware of and prepared for any potential threats towards members of Congress or towards the Capitol complex,” the agency said in a statement. “We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4.”

The statement differs from an advisory that was sent to members of Congress by the acting House sergeant-at-arms this week, saying that Capitol Police had “no indication that groups will travel to Washington D.C. to protest or commit acts of violence.”

Police did not identify the militia group in the statement on Wednesday. In her testimony to the House panel, acting Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman said her investigators had collected “some concerning intelligence,” but declined to provide any details publicly, saying it was “law enforcement sensitive” and that she would provide a private briefing for the subcommittee members.

Capitol Police say that they have stepped up security around the Capitol complex since January's insurrection, adding physical security measures such as the fencing topped with razor wire around the Capitol and members of the National Guard who remain at the complex. The statement said the agency was “taking the intelligence seriously” but provided no other specific details on the threat.

The announcement comes as the Capitol police and other law enforcement agencies are taking heat from Congress in contentious hearings this week on their handling of the Jan. 6 riot. They were prepared for a protest and were badly underprepared for the riot. It took hours for reinforcements to come and by then Trump supporters had roamed the halls of the U.S. Capitol for hours. March 4 is considered by some to be the “real inauguration day,” though there has not been nearly the amount of online chatter that occurred before Jan. 6 from extremist group.

So far, about 300 people have been charged with federal crimes for their roles in the riot. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died.

Thousands of accounts that promoted the Jan. 6 event that led to a violent storming of the U.S. Capitol have since been suspended by major tech companies like Facebook and Twitter, making it far more difficult for QAnon and far-right groups to organize a repeat of the mass gathering on Thursday.

Twitter banned more than 70,000 accounts after the riots, while Facebook and Instagram removed posts mentioning “stop the steal,” a pro-Trump rallying cry used to mobilize his supporters in January. And the conservative social media platform Parler, which many of Trump’s supporters joined to promote false election fraud conspiracy theories and encourage friends to “storm” the Capitol on Jan. 6, was booted off the internet following the siege.

Since his defeat, Trump has been promoting lies that the election was stolen from him through mass voter fraud, even though such claims have been rejected by judges, Republican state officials and Trump’s own administration. He was impeached by the House after the Jan. 6 riot on a charge of incitement of insurrection but was acquitted by the Senate.

Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant, Colleen Long and Alan Fram in Washington and Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed to this report.