There is new intelligence suggesting militia groups have expressed a desire to “blow up” the Capitol building and “kill as many members as possible” on the day President Biden addresses Congress, U.S. Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman revealed Thursday during a House hearing regarding the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“We know that members of the militia groups that were present on Jan. 6 have stated their desires 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, which we know that date has not been identified,” Pittman said before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.
“We know that the insurrectionists that attacked the Capitol weren’t only interested in attacking members of Congress and officers: they wanted to send a symbolic message to the nation as to who was in charge of that legislative process,” she added.
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The U.S. Capitol Police did not return an email and voicemail left by Fox News Thursday.
Pittman brought up the matter after questions from several lawmakers about fencing and restrictions to pedestrian traffic, as well as the ongoing National Guard presence, at the Capitol complex over a month after the insurrection on Jan. 6. Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., said such measures make “the seat of democracy look like a military base.”
“We have no intention of keeping the National Guard soldiers or that fencing any longer than what is actually needed,” Pittman responded. “We are actively working on a scaled-down approach so that we can make sure we address three primary variables: one is the known threat to the environment, two is the infrastructure vulnerabilities and then that third variable is the limitations that U.S. Capitol Police knows that it has as it relates to human capital and technology resources.”
“But based on that information,” Pittman continued, “we think that it is prudent that Capitol Police maintain its enhanced and robust security posture until we address those vulnerabilities going forward.”
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The White House has not yet scheduled a date for Biden to deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress, although the president had suggested it would take place this month.
Traditionally, presidents have given a speech to Congress during their first year in office, often in February. The address to a joint session of Congress is like a State of the Union, though it technically is not called that until the president’s second year in office.
In responding to a separate line of questioning by Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Pittman on Thursday said no evidence suggested that the race of those attending the Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., affected how the U.S. Capitol Police interpreted intelligence beforehand or adjusted its security posture that day leading up to the insurrection at the Capitol.
“Do you believe that institutional racism, that a culture of White supremacy, and I’m not saying any specific person or one action, do you think there was a discrepancy between the intelligence received and the assessment of likely violence and preparation that left officers at mercy of the mob?” Clark asked.
“As the first Black and female chief of this department, I take any allegation of any inequitable policing extremely seriously,” Pittman. “I can assure you that there is no evidence that suggest any discrepancy based on security posture or making enhancements or not based upon race.”
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Pittman said she did take steps during the Black Lives Matter movement to hold town halls to address police morale and increased training on unconscious and implicit bias, and explain that she understands – as the mother of two Black sons – that differences in policing do exist based on institutional racism. The U.S. Secret Service screened at least 15,000 people at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, and another 15,000 outside the Ellipse, Pittman said. Security camera footage showed that those crowds later made their way to the Capitol.
The House Appropriations subcommittee hearing Thursday on the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol also included testimony from Acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.