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Heightened Capitol security will continue due to potential State of the Union threat

Capitol Police chief says decisions to keep heighten security based upon early intelligence of extremists.

Updated: February 26, 2021 - 8:28am

The Capitol Police will remain on high alert due to intelligence indicating that some of the extremists who stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 could be plotting a second attack during the annual State of the Union address. 

Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman announced the plan Thursday during a congressional hearing.

There is no scheduled date for the State of the Union address, a U.S. president's annual address, in House chambers, to the America public. However, height security in the Capitol complex – including hundreds of National Guard troops and a 7-foot-tall fence along the perimeter – will remain until after the threat has passed.

"We know that members of the militia groups that were present on Jan. 6 have stated their desire that they want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible, with a direct nexus to the State of the Union," Pittman told a House Appropriations subcommittee. 

Because of that intelligence, said Pittman, it is "prudent that Capitol Police maintain its enhanced security posture until we address those issues going forward."

It is unclear how serious the plans for any future attacks may be. President Biden is not expected to address the nation in a State of the Union speech until some form of his coronavirus relief package is passed. 

Six weeks after the Capitol breach, lawmakers are continuing to press the Capitol Police force about why the agency was unprepared for riot last month, the same day a large pro-President Trump rally was held in the nation's capitol. 

During Thursday's hearing, Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan asked how the agency could have been "so lacking and ill-prepared."

"I for one am at a loss to understand how your intelligence report – and then later as the mob walked 16 blocks, growing in size and aggressive demeanor – failed to impact the Capitol Police security posture," he said.

Ryan and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. also pressed the acting chief on why the agency has yet to held a public press briefing in the aftermath of the attack.

Pittman told the committee that the agency has been focused on communication with Capitol lawmakers and the well-being of its own employees since the breach.

"We also think the American people, and the press, need to hear directly from you," Ryan said.