Extremist groups want to blow up Congress, Capitol police chief warns

Yogananda Pittman, the acting chief of the US Capitol police, said that about 800 rioters broke into the Capitol out of at least 10,000 who attended the rally

Extremist groups involved in the Washington riot of January 6 want to blow up Congress and kill members to coincide with President Biden’s state-of-the-union address, the acting chief of the US Capitol police said.

Yogananda Pittman was defending the continued presence of nearly 5,000 National Guardsmen and extra fortifications at the Capitol complex with no date yet set for Biden’s set-piece address to a joint session of both chambers. It usually takes place in February but it is being delayed until after he secures his first big piece of legislation, a pandemic relief bill.

We know that members of the militia groups 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 a House sub-committee inquiring into the storming of the Capitol.

Based on that information it is prudent that Capitol police maintain its enhanced security posture until we address those issues going forward, she said.

Pittman said intelligence suggested that those who stormed the Capitol weren’t only interested in attacking members and officers. They wanted to send a symbolic message to the nation as to who was in charge of that legislative process. Congress was meeting to confirm Trump’s election defeat and formally name Biden as the next president.

Pittman took over as acting police chief after her predecessor Steven Sund resigned in the aftermath of the Capitol invasion by Trump supporters that led to five deaths and charges of impeachment against the former president.

She said that about 800 rioters broke into the building out of at least 10,000 who attended the ‘Save America’ rally addressed by Trump and several of his close allies.

Pittman told House members that she pulled the phone records of her predecessor to check when he contacted his immediate seniors to request back-up from the National Guard on January 6.

Sund told a Senate committee earlier this week that he first called Paul Irving, the former House sergeant-at-arms, at 1.09pm but Irving said he did not get a call requesting the National Guard until after 2 pm. The formal decision then had to be made by the acting defence secretary and took another hour. By the time the troops actually arrived at 5.40pm most of the violence was over.

Pittman said the phone records showed Sund called Irving to request the National Guard at 12.58pm then called Michael Stenger, the Senate sergeant-at-arms, at 1.05pm. She said Sund repeated his request in a call at 1.20pm and then again at 1.34pm, 1.39pm and 1.45pm. Both sergeants-at-arms have also resigned.

It was an epic failure in leadership, said Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio who chairs the House panel that oversees the Capitol police. We’re going to have to address that.

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