Acting US Capitol police chief says the force is maintaining 'enhanced' presence for possible threats during the State of the Union address

Yogananda Pittman
In this Feb. 2, 2021 file photo, acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman pays respects to U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool
  • The acting Capitol Police chief said the force is readying for any threats to the State of the Union.

  • Yogananda Pittman told lawmakers the force is maintaining an "enhanced" position for the event.

  • The date of the 2021 State of the Union has not yet been set.

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The acting chief of the US Capitol Police force told House lawmakers in a Thursday hearing that the force is prepared to maintain an "enhanced" security presence in response to potential threats from militia groups during the State of the Union address.

Acting chief Yogananda Pittman and House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett testified in a hearing, held by the Legislative Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, to answer questions about law enforcement's handling of the January 6 insurrection on the Capitol and plans for the future.

In response to a question from the subcommittee chair Rep. Tim Ryan, Pittman said that law enforcement is aware of possible threats during the State of the Union.

"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," Pittman said.

So far, 268 individuals have been charged in connection with the Capitol riots. While the first wave of prosecutions mainly included charges over the events of the day itself, such as unlawfully entering Capitol grounds and disorderly conduct, the Department of Justice is shifting its investigation to more complex conspiracy cases against some defendants affiliated with organized extremist or militia movements, including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

"We know that members of the militia groups that were present on January 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," Pittman told lawmakers.

A date has not yet been set for the 2021 State of the Union, which will be President Joe Biden's first. Like Biden's January 20 inauguration, the event will likely be pared down from its usual grandeur and high attendance due to the pandemic.

State of the Union addresses are typically attended by hundreds of key government officials including all the members of both chambers of Congresss, the justices of the US Supreme Court, and all the members of the president's cabinet - except for one designated survivor.

Pittman told lawmakers that based on that information they have, "We think that it's prudent that Capitol police maintain its enhanced and robust security posture until we address those vulnerabilities going forward."

Pittman's testimony was the first time any currently-serving Capitol police officials have spoken publicly about the events of January 6.

In a Tuesday hearing in the Senate, the current acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department and three other officials who resigned in the wake of the January 6 insurrection testified to a joint hearing of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Rules Committee.

The officials who have testified so far stressed that none of the intelligence they had received prior to January 6 pointed to a violent, armed insurrection on the Capitol, and told lawmakers that channels of communication between law enforcement agencies should be improved.

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