Law & the Courts

FBI Warns Police Chiefs Nationwide to Be on High Alert for Inauguration Day Threats

Michigan State police officers patrol the grounds of the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., January 13, 2021. (Michael Martina/Reuters)

The FBI on Wednesday encouraged police chiefs nationwide to be on high alert for extremist activity and to share intelligence on threats they come across as the U.S. government worries about potential violence ahead of the inauguration next week.

FBI director Christopher Wray and acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kenneth Cuccinelli warned of potential attacks on state capitols, federal buildings, and the homes of congressional members and businesses during a call with police chiefs, according to the New York Times.

Though officials did not identify any specific threats, they urged law enforcement officers to keep an eye out for signs of trouble.

“They don’t want to be dismissive of anything,” Chief Jorge Colina of the Miami Police Department, one of thousands of officials participating in the call, told the Times. “So even if it sounds aspirational, even if it’s just like, ‘Yeah, it’d be great if the whole place is burned down,’ they don’t want us to think, ‘Ah, that’s just some knucklehead, pinhead,’ and be dismissive.”

The National Counterterrorism Center and the Justice and Homeland Security Departments issued a joint intelligence bulletin warning that last week’s rioting at the Capitol would be a “significant driver of violence” for armed militia groups and racist extremists who are targeting President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, according to the report.

Extremists aiming to trigger a race war “may exploit the aftermath of the Capitol breach by conducting attacks to destabilize and force a climactic conflict in the United States,” the bulletin warns, adding that extremist groups have viewed last week’s unrest at the Capitol as a success and have been further motivated by the death of Ashli Babbit, who was fatally shot by police during the rioting.

Officials warned of potential activity by the “boogaloo,” a movement that advocates inciting a second civil war.

“The shared false narrative of a ‘stolen’ election may lead some individuals to adopt the belief that there is no political solution to address their grievances and violent action is necessary,” the January 13 bulletin reads.

Antigovernment militias and extremist groups “very likely pose the greatest domestic terrorism threats in the 2021,” the bulletin adds.

The F.B.I. had previously warned of the potential for violence at all 50 state capitol buildings. Meanwhile, a Pentagon official expressed concern that more pipe bombs could be placed around Washington after explosives were discovered at both the RNC and DNC headquarters last week.

In Washington, D.C. security has remained a top priority after supporters of President Trump stormed the Capitol on January 6, leaving five people dead.

Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said Wednesday that more than 20,000 members of the National Guard will be in the Washington area on Inauguration Day, though it is unclear how many of them will carry weapons.

Army secretary Ryan McCarthy has decided to arm National Guard members who will protect the Capitol building complex on Inauguration Day, Defense Department officials said Tuesday.

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