The latest on Biden's inauguration and security threats

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 9:56 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021
17 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
12:20 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Pelosi: "Strong interest" in Congress for 9/11-style commission to investigate Capitol attack 

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Pool
Pool

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she has asked Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré “to lead an immediate review of security infrastructure, interagency processes and command and control” at the Capitol complex following last week's deadly attack.

"We must subject this whole complex to scrutiny in light of what happened and the fact that the inauguration is coming," Pelosi said.

Pelosi also said there is "strong interest" in Congress for creating a 9/11- style commission to investigate the siege.

"Members are moving forward with strong oversight from committees of course to have after action review. There is strong interest in the Congress in a 9/11-type commission – an outside commission to conduct that after action review. In the meantime I’m very grateful for Gen. Honoré for taking on this responsibility,” she said.

Honoré led the Department of Defense response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and was vice director for operations, J-3, The Joint Staff, according to his biography.

Pelosi said there has been “unprecedented mobilization of security” after the Capitol attack last week.

She expressed gratitude to Capitol Police and the National Guard for their actions.

“They have shown great courage, and we're very proud of them,” Pelosi said. 

Watch:

11:56 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

South Carolina State House will close amid threat of potential armed protests 

From CNN's Dianne Gallagher 

Days after the FBI issued a warning of potential armed threats at US capitols across the country, South Carolina law enforcement agencies are taking extra security measures including additional securing of the grounds of the State House. 

Out of an abundance of caution, South Carolina Department of Public Safety will close the State House complex to visitors starting tomorrow through Inauguration Day, according to a news release from the department. 

Law enforcement agencies statewide have come together to plan and prepare for the deployment of resources.

They have started steadily increasing vigilance and manpower since last week at the State House and surrounding areas, the release stated. 

11:48 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Domestic extremists pose most likely threat to inauguration, new security bulletin says 

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, Manu Raju and Whitney Wild

Concertina razor wire tops the 8-foot fence that surrounds the Capitol in Washington on January 14.
Concertina razor wire tops the 8-foot fence that surrounds the Capitol in Washington on January 14. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Domestic extremists pose the most likely threat to the presidential inauguration next week, particularly those who believe the incoming administration is illegitimate, according to a joint bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and eight other agencies obtained by CNN.

The assessment, dated Jan. 14, also notes that since the attack on the US Capitol, Russian, Iranian, and Chinese influence actors have “seized the opportunity to amplify narratives in furtherance of their policy interest amid the presidential transition,” adding that there’s a lack in specific, credible information indicating that they are seeking to commit violence. 

The assessment provides a breakdown of additional concerns leading up to Inauguration Day, including possible violence and cautioning of use of unauthorized unmanned aircraft system operations that could disrupt law enforcement operations.

"In light of the storming of the US Capitol on 6 January, planned events in Washington, DC, in the lead up to and day of Inauguration Day offer continued opportunities for violence targeting public officials, government buildings, and federal and local law enforcement," the assessment reads.
11:42 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Park Service announces National Mall will remain closed until day after inauguration 

From CNN's Ross Levitt

U.S. Park Rangers look out over the National Mall from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on January 15.
U.S. Park Rangers look out over the National Mall from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on January 15. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The National Park Service has closed the National Mall and announced that it will remain closed until the day after Inauguration Day.

It also says protests will be limited to those with permits.

"Demonstrations will be limited in number and participants will be screened prior to entry and escorted to their permitted location, in addition to other safety related requirements. Only those holding permits will be allowed within the closed area," the statement said.

A source told CNN Thursday that the closure is due to intense security concerns.

The statement says it affects, "all National Park Service property, memorials and facilities.'

"The closure has been ordered to ensure safety and security within the area of the National Special Security Event designated by the Department of Homeland Security for the 59th presidential inauguration," the statement adds.

 

11:09 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Michigan State Police mobilizing troopers from across state ahead of possible protests at capitol

From CNN’s Josh Campbell

The Michigan State Police (MSP) is mobilizing personnel from across the state to secure the state capitol in Lansing ahead of planned protests this weekend, the agency said in a statement Friday. 

"In anticipation of an unknown number of demonstrators expected to gather on the grounds of the Capitol on Sunday, January 17, the MSP is again increasing its uniform presence by mobilizing troopers from across the state," the statement read. "MSP’s resources will be complemented by uniform personnel from the Lansing Police Department, Ingham County Sheriff’s Office and the Michigan National Guard to ensure that the greater downtown area is also protected."

State police are working in concert with the FBI, National Guard and other law enforcement agencies to protect the capitol area, the agency said. 

“Security enhancements that have been put in place include both seen and unseen measures,” Col. Joe Gasper, director of the MSP, stated. “I can assure you that we take our responsibility for safeguarding the Capitol and those who work and visit here seriously and, together with our law enforcement partners, we will be prepared to ensure law and order.”

Michigan remained a flash point during 2020 as armed protesters gathered at the capitol in April to demonstrate against the state's pandemic shutdown orders.

The state was also the center of an alleged plot by extremists to kidnap the governor prior to the 2020 presidential election.  

11:25 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Here's how DC is tightening security ahead of Biden's inauguration next Wednesday

From CNN's Alex Marquardt, Jeff Zeleny and Kate Sullivan

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Authorities in Washington, DC, are bracing for more extremist violence in the coming days after supporters of President Trump stormed and breached the US Capitol last week in a deadly riot that left five people dead.

Federal law enforcement agencies have issued an urgent call for assistance in securing the nation's capital as the inauguration nears, CNN has reported, warning that domestic extremists are likely more emboldened to carry out attacks on Biden's inauguration and throughout 2021 after seeing the success of the US Capitol.

More than 20,000 National Guard troops could be in Washington to help secure Biden's inauguration, Washington Police Chief Robert Contee said Wednesday, and sources tell CNN that officials are considering raising the terrorism threat level.

The National Mall, meanwhile, will be closed to the general public on Inauguration Day due to security concerns, according to an official familiar with discussions.

The official said there will be no big screens, no toilets and no panels were people stand, and the public will not be able to get down to the mall where traditionally thousands gather to watch the new President be sworn in.

President-elect Joe Biden's advisers, who are helping plan the inaugural, say it is intended to be a virtual event. They did not object to heightened security restrictions recommended by authorities pertaining to the Mall or the area surrounding the White House.

There are ongoing discussions between the District of Columbia, National Park Service and the US Department of Interior on when the shutdown will happen. There won't be access on Jan. 20, but when exactly before that is still the subject of discussion.

The National Park Service said in a statement an announcement would be made by the department or the United States Secret Service when a final decision was made.

The restrictions on the National Mall were first reported by the Washington Post.

The President-elect and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are still expected to take their oaths of office on the West Front of the US Capitol during a significantly scaled-down event. Biden said this week that he was "not afraid of taking the oath outside" and that his team had been receiving briefings in the wake of the violence.

On Wednesday, Biden received a briefing from senior officials at the FBI, the Secret Service and key members of his national security team about the potential for additional extremist violence in the coming days, according to the President-elect's transition team.

See the security precautions around the Capitol: 

6:52 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

The Washington Post: Pence was closer than initially known to mob during Capitol riot

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Vice President Mike Pence was closer than initially known to a violent mob of protesters at the US Capitol last Wednesday, according to new reporting from the Washington Post.

Pence, per the Post, remained in the Senate chamber for about 14 minutes after Capitol Police reported the initial attempted breach of the building. Pence, along with second lady Karen Pence and daughter Charlotte Pence Bond, were then moved into a room off the Senate floor. 

About one minute after Pence was moved, the Post said, the mob of rioters moved up the stairs to the second floor landing outside the Senate entrance, where Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman heroically led them in the opposite direction. The Washington Post said that Pence and his family were in a hideaway “less than 100 feet from that landing, according to three people familiar with his whereabouts.”

“If the pro-Trump mob had arrived seconds earlier, they would have been in eyesight of the vice president as he was rushed across a reception hall into the office,” the report suggested, adding that Pence later was moved to a more secure location.  

US Secret Service told CNN in a statement that Pence was “secure at all times.”

“While the Secret Service does not speak specifically about the means and methods of our protective operations, Vice President Pence was secure at all times on Jan. 6,” a USSS spokesperson said.  

Timeline shows just how close rioters were to Pence:

10:31 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Inspector generals of 4 federal agencies open probes into their preparation ahead of Capitol riot

From CNN's Mike Callahan 

Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The offices of the Inspector General at four federal agencies are opening investigations into the role of agencies played in preparing for the events in Washington that led to rioters' breach of the US Capitol on Jan. 6.

The Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and the Interior Department have all opened investigations.

“The DOJ OIG will coordinate its review with reviews also being conducted by the Offices of Inspector General of the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of the Interior,” the IG said in a statement Friday.

The DOJ OIG also will assess whether there are any weaknesses in DOJ protocols, policies, or procedures that adversely affected the ability of DOJ or its components to prepare effectively for and respond to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. If circumstances warrant, the DOJ OIG will consider examining other issues that may arise during the review,” the DOJ statement said.
10:34 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

"Like putting gasoline on a fire": States brace for unrest in wake of deadly US Capitol assault

From CNN’s Peter Nickeas

Members of the Washington National Guard surround the Washington State Capitol as the Legislature opens the 2021 session in Olympia, Washington, on January 11.
Members of the Washington National Guard surround the Washington State Capitol as the Legislature opens the 2021 session in Olympia, Washington, on January 11. Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

State capitols across the country are bracing for violence after federal law enforcement officials warned governors and police chiefs about the potential for unrest in the wake of the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol, a siege experts say was "like putting gasoline on a fire" and will likely serve as a motivator for future attacks.

The FBI warning that armed protests are being planned in all 50 states in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration has prompted governors and police chiefs to deploy thousands of officers and equipment at state capitols around the country to thwart potential violence.

“The threats are very credible. And you’re coming off a Washington protest that was credible, and let’s just call it 'successful' in the eyes of protesters. It’s going to fuel their confidence that they can continue because we didn’t show 'em we could control 'em,” said Timothy Dimoff, a former SWAT team leader who operates a security consulting company. 

“That’s like putting gasoline on a fire," Dimoff continued. "Now we sent ‘em home and said you guys had a successful game plan and can do it again. That’s where the problem is."

US officials on Wednesday warned of future attacks, in part because of the success of the siege last week. The FBI bulletin noted that extremists could zero in on government officials and institutions, as well as racial and religious minorities, journalists, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

It also indicated that the Capitol insurrection may have served as a venue for extremists of differing ideological motivations to foster connections. After the attack, people who descended upon the capitol went home, where a number have since been arrested for their roles in the assault.

John Miller, a deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism in the New York Police Department, called the movement that participated in the attack last week “loosely organized” and noted that people had come together over social media. 

“The propensity of the violence sometimes boils down to the individual,” he said Thursday. “Nothing compares to any past threats; we have never had Americans fighting Americans on the streets of the nation’s capital probably since the civil war.” 

Other motivations that could fuel future attacks include anti-government sentiment held by extremists, as well as grievances associated with the false narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, according to Wednesday’s bulletin.

“What you see now is a coalescing of the movement,” said Jason Blazakis, who retired from the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism in 2018. He said various extremist groups that had operated alone over the last four years moved in concert during the assault on the Capitol last week.  

“The heave-ho of everyone getting through – you have Oath Keepers next to Proud Boys next to white supremacists, that’s what makes this a dangerous time,” he said. “The movement is energized and they’re emboldened by surprise success on [January] 6th. I think they’re surprised. They didn’t plan to Nth degree, and to be able to breach the pillar of democracy, that’s going to motivate them.”