Police intelligence finds possible plot to breach U.S. Capitol by 'identified militia group' on Thursday
House of Representatives changes schedule, won't sit Thursday
Capitol Police say they have intelligence showing a "possible plot" by a militia group to breach the U.S. Capitol this Thursday, nearly two months after a mob of supporters of former U.S. president Donald Trump stormed the iconic building to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden's victory.
The threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory, mainly promoted by supporters of QAnon, that Trump will rise again to power on March 4. That was the U.S.'s original presidential inauguration day until 1933, when it was moved to Jan. 20.
The revelation was detailed in a statement from the Capitol Police. It comes at the same time the acting police chief is testifying before a House subcommittee.
"The United States Capitol Police Department is aware of and prepared for any potential threats toward members of Congress or toward the Capitol complex," the agency said in a statement. "We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4."
Police did not name the militia group in the statement on Wednesday.
The statement differs from an advisory that was sent to members of Congress by the acting House sergeant-at-arms this week, saying Capitol Police had "no indication that groups will travel to Washington, D.C. to protest or commit acts of violence."
House rises for the week
The House abruptly finished its work for the week Wednesday afternoon, moving up work that had been scheduled for Thursday.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer notified lawmakers late Wednesday of the sudden schedule change. An aide who was granted anonymity to discuss the matter said the decision was made due to the threats.
Capitol Police say that they have stepped up security around the Capitol complex since January's insurrection, adding physical security measures such as fencing topped with razor wire around the Capitol and members of the National Guard who remain at the complex.
The statement said the agency was "taking the intelligence seriously" but provided no other specific details on the threat.
Some consider March 4 'the real inauguration day'
News of the threat came as the Capitol police and other law enforcement agencies are taking heat from Congress in contentious hearings this week on their handling of the Jan. 6 riot. They were prepared for a protest and were badly under-prepared for the riot. It took hours for reinforcements to come and by then Trump supporters had roamed the halls of the U.S. Capitol for hours.
March 4 is considered by some to be the "real inauguration day," though there has not been nearly the amount of online chatter that occurred before Jan. 6 from extremist groups.
So far, about 300 people have been charged with federal crimes for their roles in the riot. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died.
Thousands of accounts that promoted the Jan. 6 event that led to a violent storming of the U.S. Capitol have since been suspended by major tech companies like Facebook and Twitter, making it far more difficult for QAnon and far-right groups to organize a repeat of the mass gathering on Thursday.
Twitter banned more than 70,000 accounts after the riots, while Facebook and Instagram removed posts mentioning "stop the steal," a pro-Trump rallying cry used to mobilize his supporters in January.
The conservative social media platform Parler, which many of Trump's supporters joined to promote false election fraud conspiracy theories and encourage friends to "storm" the Capitol on Jan. 6, was effectively booted off the internet for several weeks following the siege when Amazon suspended its web-hosting services, and Apple and Google removed it from their app stores.
Since his defeat, Trump has been promoting lies that the election was stolen from him through mass voter fraud, even though such claims have been rejected by judges, Republican state officials and Trump's own administration.
He was impeached by the House after the Jan. 6 riot on a charge of incitement of insurrection but was acquitted by the Senate.
With files from CBC News