Far-right extremists recruiting in military: Pentagon
Prosecutors say Capitol rioters sought to 'capture and assassinate' lawmakers
The center of Washington was in lockdown Thursday as more than 20,000 armed National Guard troops were mobilized following the deadly assault on the Capitol and the threat of more violence at the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden.
Police chief Robert Contee said the US capital was facing "a major security threat" after supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building a week ago in a violent bid to block Biden's confirmation that left five people dead.
On Thursday, a day after Trump was impeached in Congress for allegedly supporting the assault, more barriers were being erected and razor wire laid as part of precautions ahead of the January 20 ceremony.
Most of downtown Washington was off-limits to traffic, drawing comparisons to Baghdad's high-security "Green Zone."
The Secret Service, in charge of security, was weighing an unprecedented shutdown of the entire National Mall, the grassy spread where hundreds of thousands traditionally gather to celebrate the inauguration of a new president.
Security officials are warning that armed extremist Trump supporters, possibly carrying explosives, pose a threat to Washington as well as state capitals over the coming week.
"We are seeing an extensive amount of concerning online chatter," FBI Director Chris Wray told Vice President Mike Pence in a televised briefing. "We're concerned about the potential for violence at multiple protest rallies planned here in DC and state capitol buildings around the country in the days to come, that could bring armed individuals within close proximity to government buildings and officials," he said.
In steps not seen since after the September 11, 2001 national alerts, an internal FBI bulletin warned that an armed group planned to "storm" government offices in all 50 states to protest Biden, ABC News reported.
"The FBI received information about an identified armed group intending to travel to Washington, DC on 16 January," the bulletin added.
The New York Times reported that the FBI has told police departments around the country to stay alert for extremist activity and pass on intelligence.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department Thursday said far-right and white supremacist extremists are actively recruiting in the US military and have gained more support over the past year.
The Pentagon said it will launch an investigation into the extent of extremism in US military ranks. But the Defense Department has not yet released any data on the size of the problem.
The military has been aware of the problem for some time. But it was underscored by the involvement of serving and retired force members, as well as police officers, among the pro-Trump protesters who violently forced their way into the Capitol building.
In another development, US prosecutors now believe supporters of Trump planned to "capture and assassinate elected officials" in their siege of the Capitol building last week, according to a new court filing.
The filing, submitted by Justice Department lawyers late Thursday, sought the detention of Jacob Chansley of Arizona, the QAnon conspiracy theorist pictured in the riot dressed as a horned shaman at the desk of Vice President Mike Pence.
"Strong evidence, including Chansley's own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government," prosecutors said of the January 6 siege.