By LOLITA C. BALDOR
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Capitol Police have requested that members of the National Guard continue to provide security at the U.S. Capitol for another two months, The Associated Press has learned. Defense officials say the new proposal is being reviewed by the Pentagon, and negotiations between the department, the police and congressional authorities are ongoing.
The request to keep as many as 2,200 Guard troops in D.C. underscores the continuing concerns about security and the potential for violence at the Capitol, two months after rioters breached the building in violence that left five people dead. And it came as law enforcement was on high alert Thursday around the Capitol after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the building.
The potential plot was tied to the far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that former President Donald Trump would rise again to power on March 4, the original presidential inauguration day. There were no signs of disturbance Thursday, but the Capitol Police’s request for extended Guard assistance appeared mired in confusion within various congressional oversight authorities, according to letters obtained by The AP.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., said she learned that the request for a 60-day extension was made in the last 36 hours, and that the Guard is now seeking volunteers from states around the country to fill the need.
Defense officials confirmed that the request is under review at the Pentagon, and that the Guard has started checking states for availability of their troops, in an effort to be prepared if final Defense Department approval is given. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
According to a memo from the Capitol Police to congressional leaders, the new draft proposal asks to keep up to 2,200 Guard members in D.C. initially, and reduce the number “incrementally and rationally” based on the threat.
As part of the plan, Capitol Police shall employ readily available technology and utilize mutual aid agreements to reduce the Guard footprint to a battalion size of approximately 900 soldiers as recommended by the Department of Defense on February 22, 2021.
The request got a sharp rebuke from Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.
“It’s outrageous,” he said. ”That’s not what they’re supposed to be, that’s not their mission. We have the Capitol Police, that is their mission.”
The more than 5,000 Guard members currently in Washington, D.C., are all slated to go home March 12, ending the mission.
Slotkin said some members of Congress have been concerned about whether there is a solid plan to provide security for members and staff going forward.
“We want to understand what the plan is,” she said. “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 there has to be a plan that provides the needed security for the buildings and personnel by the Capitol Police and local law enforcement. Slotkin said it was telling that House members hastened to complete major votes Wednesday so they wouldn’t have to be in the building that violent rioters besieged in January. Lawmakers, she said, “don’t feel totally secure” in the Capitol.
Capitol Police officials have also told congressional leaders the razor-wire-topped fencing around the Capitol should remain in place for several more months.
Slotkin said, however, that she was going to her office to work Thursday. “I’m not going to let these guys scare me away,” she said.
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