4/4 © Reuters. Members of the US National Guard walk near the US Capitol building on Capitol Hill in Washington 2/4
By Makini Brice and Heather Timmons WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Overwhelmed during the deadly attack on Congress by supporters of President Donald Trump last week, US security forces are mounting a nationwide operation to thwart any violence before for President-elect Joe Biden to take office. Federal and state officials are evaluating online threats and threatening messages to members of Congress and ensuring that the security operation has the strength to repel an attack. Biden’s incoming administration has significantly increased security around his team ahead of the January 20 inauguration. The riot at the Capitol in Washington on January 6 forced lawmakers to flee the building’s inner chambers, fearing for their lives. A police officer and four protesters were killed in the siege, which began after Trump called on thousands of supporters to march on Congress in an attempt to stop the final certification of Biden’s election victory. Trump, who falsely claims he lost the election due to fraud, faced impeachment in the House of Representatives on Wednesday for encouraging his supporters to march on Congress. He has also faced growing calls for his resignation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned that armed protests in support of Trump were planned in Washington and in all 50 U.S. state capitals this weekend or around Biden’s inauguration. Local officials have been increasing security, especially in the battlefield states where Biden narrowly beat Trump. “It is clear that more must be done to anticipate, penetrate and prevent deadly and seditious attacks by domestic violent extremists in the coming days,” two top House Democrats, Jerrold Nadler and Adam Schiff, said in a statement Tuesday. The largest security operation is in Washington, where Biden will be sworn in outside the Capitol next Wednesday. About 20,000 National Guard soldiers will be on hand for Biden’s inauguration, with half of them in town on Saturday in case protests erupt this weekend. National Guard troops were assigned to provide 24-hour security within the halls of Congress and were replaced as Capitol Police officers, allowing them to make arrests. The National Park Service closed the Washington Monument until Jan. 24, and shared housing company Airbnb said it was blocking and canceling all reservations in the Washington area to deter protesters from descending on the capital. In Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers authorized National Guard troops to support security efforts in the Madison state capital. Georgia’s superior court canceled all in-person proceedings on January 19 and 20 as a precaution. “While individual state capitals have been subject to threats and actual violence over the years, the current environment is unique at least since the weeks after September 11, 2001,” said James Nash, spokesman for the National Association. bipartisan Governors. THE RIGHT RIGHT’S PLANS ARE NOT CLEAR In chat rooms and forums on the far right, mixed messages have emerged about possible protests surrounding Biden’s inauguration. The recently retired Patriot Action for America website called on supporters to surround the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court days before “to, at all costs, prevent Joseph Biden or any other Democrat from being inaugurated.” . An image posted on the pro-Trump website The Donald called on protesters to “fight for freedom” with armed marches on January 17 at the US Capitol and in state capitals, according to SITE Intelligence Group, a Maryland-based organization that tracks extremists. But users of other far-right forums warned people not to attend the events as they warned it could be part of a plot to trap them. Trump has defended his Jan. 6 speech to supporters before they marched to Congress as “totally appropriate,” but he had a different message Wednesday as public criticism from fellow Republicans mounted. “In light of the reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there should be NO violence, NO law breaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” Trump said in a statement. On Tuesday, US Acting Undersecretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli appeared to downplay the threat in state capitals. “There are many statements out there. And while we must take them seriously, at the same time it would be incredibly unlikely to see what is depicted in those threats actually happen,” Cuccinelli said in an interview with Fox News Channel. . Still, a Congressional source familiar with the intelligence reports and analysis said the FBI is “taking very seriously” the warnings from the Inauguration Day protests. Multiple investigations are underway into how Trump supporters were able to storm the Capitol building and whether any public officials were involved. I At least two Capitol police officers have been suspended and more than a dozen more are under investigation for alleged breach of duty, aiding or inciting the rioters. The off-duty police allegedly involved in the riots have also been suspended by departments outside of Washington. Dozens of cases are being investigated on possible charges ranging from sedition to murder for serious crimes related to the riot, in what DC Acting Attorney General Sherwin called a “significant” counterterrorism investigation.