Threats to Lawmakers Have Nearly Doubled in 2021, Police Chief Says

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Threats to members of Congress have nearly doubled in the first two months of this year compared to the same time period last year, according to the acting head of the U.S. Capitol Police, who plans to ask Congress for a more than 20% budget increase for the department.

In testimony prepared for a Wednesday House hearing, acting Chief Yogananda Pittman said there has been a 94% increase in threats to lawmakers in January and February in the aftermath of a Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol stoked by former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the presidential election was stolen from him.

A “significant focus” for Capitol Police in the next fiscal year “is centered on member security” outside Washington, Pittman plans to say in a Wednesday hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.

Pittman will also outline other security needs at the Capitol and its surrounding buildings. The Jan. 6 attack by a mob of Trump supporters trying to stop the formal counting of the Electoral College votes that certified Joe Biden won the presidency shows that “the level of existential threats to the U.S. Capitol and grounds are increasing as well,” she will say.

Separately, acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett alerted lawmakers Tuesday that there will be heightened security Thursday at the Capitol tied to conspiracy theories about March 4 being the “true inauguration day.” People associated with the far-right conspiracy movement QAnon have been circulating the baseless claim that Trump would inaugurated on that day.

On Tuesday night, the Capitol Police posted a statement on Twitter saying that “based on the intelligence we have, the department has taken immediate steps to enhance our security posture and staffing for a number of days, to include March 4th.”

To cover the increased security needs for members of Congress, Pittman plans to request a total budget, including salaries and general expenses, of $619.22 million for fiscal 2022. That’s a 21% increase over the current fiscal year.

‘Evolving Threats’

Pittman also plans to talk about the “lessons learned” after intelligence failures leading up to the Jan. 6 attack. Her budget request includes resources for “emerging technologies“ to improve communication, as well as “new officer safety equipment based on the evolving threats and physical security requirements for the Capitol complex.

The acting chief’s prepared remarks for Wednesday’s hearing also include a pledge to work with the Architect of the Capitol “to produce recommendations for the physical hardening of the Capitol Complex,” as well as getting more space for a larger Capitol Police force and its new equipment.

“This will require a significant investment in the necessary training, tools, and information gathering resources needed to meet the dynamic and ever-changing security challenges, including the rising threat of domestic terrorism,” she says in her written testimony.

Pittman also plans to say the threats will require the department having 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.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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