We’re all thinking the same thing here, that the USCP is so eager to signal that they’re taking threats seriously after the intel fiasco of January 6 that they might be hyping this one to prove they’re on the case.
But read a few news stories about how this has played out over the last 48 hours and you’ll come away with the sense that they really are concerned.
As for why militiamen would be keyed in on tomorrow, that’s easy. One of QAnon’s coping mechanisms after Biden was sworn in was to move the goalposts by insisting that Trump, the real president, would actually be sworn in for his second term on March 4. (Biden is some sort of decoy to fake-out the evil cabal of child-molesting Satanists, I presume.) March 4 is the date that U.S. presidents used to be sworn in; there’s some “sovereign citizen” argle-bargle that holds that the U.S. ceased to be a nation in the late 19th century and became a corporation instead, such that there have been only 18 lawfully inaugurated chief executives. Trump is supposed to become number 19 tomorrow, March the 4th, the grand reinstitution of the American republic.
The details aren’t important. Suffice it to say, some of the people who smashed up the Capitol two months ago claim to believe it and they’ve already proved that they’re willing to take things very far in the name of their beliefs. What’s interesting about the threat is that, as of yesterday, the acting House sergeant-at-arms was telling people it was much ado about nothing, that in fact the significance of the March 4 date “has reportedly declined amongst various groups in recent days” and that there was no evidence of anyone traveling to D.C. to make trouble.
But overnight something seems to have changed. The Capitol Police issued a statement this morning announcing “We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4. We have already made significant security upgrades to include establishing a physical structure and increasing manpower to ensure the protection of Congress, the public and our police officers.” This afternoon the sergeant-at-arms circulated this email to congressional offices, warning of “new and concerning information” and advising that the threat could persist into this weekend:
MORE on the Hill security threats
Cap Police says they received "new and concerning information and intelligence indicating additional interest in the Capitol for the dates of March 4th – 6th by a militia group.”
This was in letter to members today pic.twitter.com/JlGFzWkmcP
— Sarah Ferris (@sarahnferris) March 3, 2021
Two sources say officers got the bulletin on Tuesday and that it specifically names the militia group the Three Percenters. Members of the group are accused in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.
Sources say their days off and vacation days have been canceled this week as a result of this new threat.
At least one person affiliated with the “Threepers” was indicted on charges stemming from the Capitol riot and several others are suspected of ties to the group. Whether there really is a reprise of the January 6 attack planned for tomorrow or if it’s just a keyboard insurrection is unclear this afternoon:
There has been a noticeable decline in online activity on some social media platforms surrounding efforts on March 4, and there was already considerably less online chatter than during the lead-up to Jan. 6, a day that Trump repeatedly had promoted for a his rally and encouraged thousands to come to the nation’s capital.
Several QAnon groups still operating on the social media messaging platform Telegram warned followers to stay away from any events on March 4, claiming it was a setup for Trump supporters.
“If there are groups out there planning and advertising events on or around March 4 anywhere in the country (DC included) we strongly urge everyone to avoid them entirely,” one Telegram user wrote late last month in a QAnon group that has more than 65,000 followers.
Another person who monitors online extremism told The Hill, “We haven’t seen anything to suggest that there’s any physical, real world mobilization behind that chatter.” Just in case, the AP reports that the FBI is monitoring hotels, flights, car rentals, and bus tickets to see if any familiar names from watchlists turn up anywhere, a sign that something’s in the works. They have to take this seriously, and not just because of January 6: The USCP chief relayed today that threats to members of Congress were up 94 percent in January and February this year.
Even if things stay quiet, the goalposts for a new insurrection can and will always move again. Fox 5 DC notes that among QAnoners and militia types, “There is also some chatter about March 20, the day the Republican party came to life in 1834. And, there’s even some noise about April 15: federal income tax day.” The National Guard may be hanging around the Capitol for months to come.
Whatever happens, the security response will be vastly more robust than it was on January 6. Read this account of today’s testimony by the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, who claims he received an urgent request for help from the sergeant-at-arms at 1:49 p.m. that day and wasn’t permitted to respond until 5:08 p.m., three hours and 19 minutes later. Not only that, he needed special permission from the Secretary of the Army to do so. How come? He was warned by other brass, he says, that it “wouldn’t be their best military advice to send uniformed guardsmen to the Capitol because they didn’t like the optics. And they had also said that it could ‘inflame’ [the protesters].” Would the optics have been better if the rioters had started lynching congressmen and shooting cops because security didn’t arrive quickly enough? “Optics” won’t be a concern tomorrow.
Update: The House is taking this seriously. They’re no longer in session tomorrow, although the Senate will be. For now.
Update: Mike McCaul is taking it seriously too — and wants help from Trump:
News–> On chatter about another possible attack on the Capitol tomorrow — moments ago on @TheLeadCNN @RepMcCaul told @jaketapper "President Trump has a responsibility to tell them to stand down. This threat is credible. It's real. It's a right-wing militia group"
— Kristin Donnelly (@kristindonnelly) March 3, 2021