FBI Director Chris Wray finally spoke more than a week after the MAGA riot Thursday to warn the agency is monitoring major new ‘potential’ for armed violence nationwide around Joe Biden’s inauguration.
He appeared at a briefing on the inauguration security plans with Vice President Mike Pence and bluntly warned about the potential for armed protests in Washington D.C. and nationwide.
Wray spoke as National Guard troops continued to flood into the capital and were told they are authorized to use deadly force against any terror threat.
‘We’re concerned about the potential for violence at multiple protests and rallies,’ Wray told Pence at the briefing, at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The building is just block away from the National Mall, which in an unprecedented move will be closed for the inauguration and close to where a razor wire fence is now being erected around the Capitol.
Wray said the FBI have already made 100 arrests of MAGA rioters and said they have 100 more suspects identified.
‘We’re looking at individuals who may have an eye towards repeating that same kind of violence that we saw last week,’ he said.
‘From January 6th alone, we’ve already identified over 200 suspects. So we know who you are, if you’re out there, and FBI agents are coming to find you.’
Security measures are intensifying in Washington DC with razor wire now installed on anti-climb fences outside the Capitol and the National Mall set to be closed off during Joe Biden’s inauguration – as the FBI warns police chiefs across the US to be on ‘high alert’ for extremist activity.
Authorities continued to erect fences, set up road blocks and boarded up building across much of downtown DC on Thursday in a bid to fortify the capital ahead of next week’s inauguration.
Banning access to the National Mall, which is where crowds usually gather during inaugurations, is the latest security measure to be announced, sources say. Access to the Capitol grounds and Washington Monument is already prohibited.
A spokesman for the National Park Service, who oversees the National Mall, said an official announcement would be made by the Secret Service when a decision had been made. It is not yet clear when the National Mall will be blocked off.
The move comes as security continues to intensify in DC with up to 20,000 National Guard troops being called in to protect and fortify the capital and law enforcement on heightened alert over possible armed protests and attacks.
A dire bulletin put out by the National Counterterrorism Center and the Justice and Homeland Security Departments on Wednesday warned of threats from armed militia groups and racist extremists. It did not detail specific plots to target next week’s inauguration but warned that extremists largely viewed the violent breach of the Capitol as a success.
Briefing: Chris Wray, the FBI director who has not been seen since the MAGA mob stormed the Capitol, briefed Mike Pence on inauguration security at the Federal Emergency Management Agency
Security measures are intensifying in Washington DC with razor wire now installed on anti-climb fences outside the Capitol
Barbed wire is installed on the top of a security fence surrounding the US Capitol on Thursday as security intensified ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration next week
National Guard soldiers stand guard on the grounds around the US Capitol in DC on Thursday as security intensifies
Authorities continued to erect fences, set up road blocks and boarded up building across much of downtown DC on Thursday in a bid to fortify the capital ahead of next week’s inauguration
The Secret Service will take control of inauguration security preparations from today and road closures are now in effect across parts the downtown Washington DC area until after the inauguration. Further perimeters and additional road closures are expected in the coming days. Access to all roads, parking garages and loading docks – including residential and commercial building – in the White House perimeter will be banned from Thursday morning
The joint intelligence bulletin, obtained by the New York Times, said extremists ‘may exploit the aftermath of the Capitol breach by conducting attacks to destabilize and force a climactic conflict in the United States’.
The warning has been sent out to law enforcement agencies across the country. The FBI has already warned of armed protests being planned in Washington and all 50 state capitals in the run-up to the inauguration, including three separate plots to attack the Capitol.
In a call with thousands of police chiefs across the country on Wednesday, the FBI also urged law enforcement to be on high alert for any extremist activity and to share any intelligence they come across. The FBI said it was closely monitoring online activity related to planned plots and extremists but urged local law enforcement to be aware of lone wolf attacks, as well as violence planned by larger groups.
Federal authorities warned in the bulletin that extremists have been roused by the death of military veteran Ashli Babbit, who was fatally shot by police after storming the Capitol. The bulletin warned that Babbit’s death could be considered ‘an act of martyrdom’ by some extremists in their plots to target the inauguration.
The bulletin said it was possible some extremists and militia groups believed ‘violent action is necessary’ because there ‘is no political solution to address their grievances’ given the false narrative of a stolen election that has been peddled by President Trump.
The FBI is warning police chiefs across the US to be on ‘high alert’ for extremist activity because the deadly siege on the Capitol will be a ‘significant driver of violence’ during Joe Biden’s inauguration
An unscalable fence has now been erected around the Trump International Hotel just a few blocks away from the White House
Workers unload anti-climb fencing near the White House as security intensifies in Washington DC ahead of the inauguration
Workers board up the buildings near the White House on Thursday ahead of the inauguration
Warnings have also been issued about possible armed protests from the Boogaloo Boys – a movement that aims to start a second Civil War.
Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton told NBC’s Today that he would be more concerned about lone wolf militant attacks rather than plots involving larger groups. He warned that states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota were at higher risk of local attacks because of the less strict gun laws and militia history.
‘I’d be more concerned about what you don’t see in terms of serious militant type who’d try to upset this event rather than the large crowds we saw on January 6. But, thankfully the law enforcement officials are united this time,’ Bratton said.
It comes as the National Guard, who descended on Washington DC in the aftermath of the Capitol siege, were told to prepare for the possibility that those plotting inauguration attacks will be using improvised explosive devices and be heavily armed.
The troops were briefed on the IED threats after pipe bombs were uncovered in the aftermath of last week’s deadly siege on the US Capitol, sources told Politico.
A total of 20,000 National Guardsman have now been authorized to descend on Washington to help safeguard the capital ahead of Biden’s inauguration. There are already 6,200 troops on the ground in DC and at least 10,000 will be in place by Saturday.
The FBI is warning police chiefs across the US to be on ‘high alert’ for extremist activity because the deadly siege on the Capitol will be a ‘significant driver of violence’ during Joe Biden’s inauguration. Members of the Military Police are pictured assembling in DC on Thursday morning
A member of the Military Police stands besides equipment in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Thursday
Members of the Military Police are pictured sleeping in the Dirksen Senate Office on Thursday morning
The troops have now been cleared to carry handguns and rifles after previously only been authorized to carry protective equipment. National Guard members operate under strict rules of engagement on the use of force. It is not yet clear how many Guardsman will be armed.
The troops, thousands of other law enforcement officers and layers of eight-foot, anti-climb steel fencing are among the reinforcements being used to fortify DC a week out from the inauguration in a bid to protect the capital from any violence.
The Secret Service is now in charge of inauguration security preparations with the FBI, National Guard, US Marshals Service, local law enforcement and other federal agencies now falling under their command.
The increased security measures are being implemented days earlier than scheduled as a direct result of the Capitol siege and the planned plots subsequently uncovered by authorities.
Police vehicles sealed off a huge swath of downtown DC on Wednesday, causing immediate traffic snarls.
The public is banned from entering the Capitol grounds and access to the Washington Monument is now prohibited for the next two weeks due to ongoing threats.
Starting from Wednesday, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said that anyone inside the inauguration perimeter might be stopped and questioned. From Friday, all parking garages in the downtown restricted zone will be sealed until after the inauguration.
‘Clearly we are in uncharted waters,’ Bowser said, adding that last week’s attack had ‘impacted the way we are approaching working with our federal partners in planning for the 59th inauguration’.
It comes after law enforcement faced intense scrutiny in the wake of the Capitol siege. While Capitol Police have faced the majority of criticism, it has since emerged that the FBI and DHS did not do a formal threat assessment before the riots despite being aware of potential threats.
Starting from Wednesday, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said that anyone inside the inauguration perimeter might be stopped and questioned. Starting Friday, all parking garages in the downtown restricted zone will be sealed until after the inauguration
Workers set up barricades surrounding the U.S. Capitol late on Wednesday as additional warnings were sent out by the FBI
The National Guard, who descended on Washington DC in the aftermath of the Capitol siege, were told to prepare for the possibility that those plotting inauguration attacks will be using improvised explosive devices and be heavily armed
The heightened security comes as it was revealed that extremists are now using the encoded app Telegram to coordinate and plan future attacks, NBC reports. Some are sharing knowledge of how to make, conceal and use homemade guns and bombs in advance of the inauguration.
The messages are being posted in Telegram chatrooms where white supremacist content has been freely shared for months, but chatter on these channels has increased since extremists have been forced off other platforms.
A US Army field manual and calls to ‘shoot politicians’ and ‘encourage armed struggle’ have been posted in a Telegram channel that uses ‘fascist’ in its name.
Facebook has also reported seeing an increase in signals indicating potential acts of violence associated with efforts to contest the result of election since the Capitol siege last week.
A company spokeswoman said the Capitol siege appeared to be a galvanizing event, spawning efforts to organize gatherings across the country for multiple dates around the inauguration.
Signals Facebook tracked included digital flyers promoting the events, some of them featuring calls to arms or the insignia of militias or hate groups.
Facebook has banned content promoting the phrase ‘stop the steal,’ which has become a rallying cry at armed pro-Trump protests. The company was also blocking searches for ‘storm the Capitol’ and flagging posts that include those phrases for further review, the spokeswoman said.
Authorities have already spoken of three separate plots to attack the Capitol ahead of the inauguration, including an ‘organized group’ of 4,000 people who are planning to prevent Democrats from entering the Capitol.
In a closed-door briefing this week, law enforcement informed lawmakers of that plot and said they are following a published ‘rules of engagement’ on when to shoot and start taking more serious action.
Another protest is being planned in honor of Ashli Babbitt, the USAF veteran who was shot at point blank range by a police officer as she tried to clamber into the Speaker’s Lobby during the Trump mob’s siege.
An FBI internal memo warned of a group that was calling for the ‘storming’ of state, local and federal government buildings, as well as court houses if Trump is removed from office.
It is not yet clear how many other plots law enforcement are already aware of.