WASHINGTON – Capitol police are stepping up security at transportation centers in the Washington area and taking other measures to protect traveling lawmakers as Congress continues to respond to this month’s deadly attack on the Capitol.
Capitol Police will be stationed at the area’s airports and Washington’s Union Station railroad hub on hectic travel days, the house’s chief law enforcement officer wrote in an email received on Friday by the Associated Press. Timothy P. Blodgett, acting sergeant at the weapons, wrote that officials set up an online portal for lawmakers to notify them of travel plans and urged lawmakers to report threats and suspicious activity.
“Members and staff should be vigilant about their surroundings and immediately report anything unusual or suspicious,” the email, sent late Thursday, said.
Blodgett said lawmakers have previously been advised that they can use account expense accounts to pay for security to protect their offices and events in their districts and for self-protection while performing official duties. It also quoted an opinion from the Federal Election Commission 2017 that they can use campaign grants to install security systems at home.
President Joe Biden is in “close contact” with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, about congressional security, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that lawmakers are facing threats of violence from an “enemy” in Congress and said money would be needed to improve security. Pelosi’s comments were an astonishing acknowledgment of escalating internal tensions between the two parties over security since the January 6 Capitol attack by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
On Thursday, the acting head of the Capitol Police said “major improvements” are needed to protect the Capitol and adjacent office buildings, including permanent fencing.
Such barricades have rung the complex since the deadly uprising on January 6, but many lawmakers have long opposed giving the country’s symbol of democracy the appearance of a besieged association, and leaders were not connected with the idea.
Pelosi focused his comments on the anxiety and biased frictions that have persisted in Congress since Trump supporters’ attack on the Capitol, leading to five deaths. She told reporters she believes Congress will need to provide money “for more security for members, when the enemy is in the House of Representatives, a threat that members worry about.”
Asked to clarify what she meant, Pelosi said: “This means that we have members of Congress who want to bring weapons to the floor and have threatened violence against other members of Congress.”
Some lawmakers who voted for this month’s deportation of Trump have reported receiving threats, and the first steps to improve security procedures have taken on clear partisan undertones. Some Republicans have strongly opposed having to pass through newly installed metal detectors before entering the House of Representatives, while Pelosi has proposed fines for lawmakers who bypass the units.
Pelosi did not say who she meant by referring to an “enemy” in the House, and a spokesman gave no examples.
First-term representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Who has expressed support for baseless QAnon conspiracy theories, has liked Facebook posts advocating violence against Democrats and the FBI. One post suggested that Pelosi be shot in the head.
Asked to comment, Greene sent a written statement accusing Democrats and journalists of attacking her because she is “a threat to their goals of socialism” and supports Trump and conservative values.
Earlier this month, the HuffPost website reported that Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., Started a newly installed metal detector when he tried to enter the house and was found to have a concealed handgun. Other Republicans have also talked about carrying firearms, which lawmakers are allowed to do, but not on house or senate floors.
Since the attack, the Capitol bases have been surrounded by a barrier fence and patrolled by National Guard troops. Yogananda D. Pittman, acting head of the Capitol Police, said in a statement that based on security assessments by her agency and others, some changes would be permanent.
“I can unequivocally say that major improvements to the physical security infrastructure need to be made to include permanent fencing and the availability of ready-made reserve forces near the Capitol,” Pittman said.
Pelosi did not take an immediate approach to permanent fencing. Speaker Drew Hammill said she would wait for a Capitol security check led by retired Lieutenant General Russel Honoré “to understand what infrastructure changes are needed.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., told reporters he would “refer to the experts.”
Others panned the permanent fence proposal. Rope. Elise Stefanik, RN.Y., said she was “convincingly opposed” and had not heard any justification for its needs. Rope. Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass., A former Marine, said it would be wrong to make the Capitol a “fortress.”
The public is not allowed to carry firearms on the Capitol. Members of Congress can have weapons in their offices or transport them on campus if they are unloaded and securely packed.
The House accused Trump this month of inciting the uprising at the Capitol. The Senate trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 9.
Trump made burning comments to a crowd of supporters just before the riot and urged them to march to the building. Lawmakers at the time formally certified Biden’s election victory, which Trump has repeatedly and falsely attributed to fraud.
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