The U.S. Capitol Police, worried about threats of another attack on the Capitol, are asking the Defense Department to leave about 5,000 members of the National Guard stationed at the Capitol for another 60 days to provide security through mid-May.
Defense officials told VOA the request is being considered. The troops had been slated to leave the Capitol grounds March 12.
The request to keep the troops in place came as authorities said they were taking seriously intelligence about a possible plot by a militia group to breach the Capitol on Thursday although all was quiet at mid-day.
Some right-wing conspiracy theorists expressed the belief that somehow former President Donald Trump would be reinaugurated to the presidency on March 4, the date that U.S. presidential inaugurations were held on until 1933 when the quadrennial ceremonies were switched to January 20. But Trump left Washington six weeks ago when his White House term ended, and Democrat Joe Biden was sworn in as the country’s 46th president.
Security has been especially tight around the Capitol since January 6, when hundreds of Trump supporters, some of them with right-wing extremist views, stormed past authorities, ransacked offices and scuffled with police as lawmakers were in the early stages of certifying that Biden defeated Trump in last November’s national election. Five people were left dead in the mayhem, including a Capitol Police officer.
“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 Capitol Police said in a statement. “Our Department is working with our local, state, and federal partners to stop any threats to the Capitol.”
At her weekly news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the National Guard troops should remain at the Capitol for “as long as they are needed,” but said she would leave decisions about troop deployments up to security officials at the Capitol.
Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan said some members of Congress have been concerned about ongoing security at the Capitol, the dome-shaped building often pictured around the world as the symbol of U.S. democracy.
"We want to understand what the plan is," she told the Associated Press. "None of us like looking at the fencing, the gates, the uniformed presence around the Capitol. We can't depend on the National Guard for our security."
She said lawmakers "don't feel totally secure" in the Capitol. U.S. Capitol Police officials say that the razor-wire topped fencing around the Capitol should remain in place for several more months.
Earlier this week, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned local law enforcement officials in a joint intelligence bulletin that a group of militia extremists had discussed encouraging people to travel to Washington and try to take control of the Capitol.
The threats prompted the House of Representatives to cancel its Thursday session, although the Senate was scheduled to meet.
Lawmakers have held several hearings about what was known before the January 6 attack and how local and federal agencies responded. Once the rioters breached the Capitol, authorities were slow to respond as the insurgents posted pictures of themselves inside the building on social media.
The Justice Department has charged more than 300 people with taking part in the siege, with the investigation continuing. Authorities say they have pinpointed a man in a video of the mayhem spraying bear repellant at the police officer who was killed, but that they have yet to identify him.
Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.