US National Guard
© Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Members of the US National Guard arriving at the US Capitol January 12, 2021
The U.S. Capitol Police has requested an extension of the National Guard mission to provide heavily armed protection of Congress and the Capitol grounds, the Defense Department confirmed Thursday.

"We have indeed received a request and DOD is currently considering request," a defense official told the Washington Examiner without providing details about the number of requested citizen-soldiers and the length of time amid reports that the mission will stretch well into the spring months. Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters any decisions about keeping the Guard in the capital city would be made by law enforcement officials:
"The issue about the National Guard is one that will be made by the Capitol Police and the Police Board. We should have them here as long as they are needed."
Presently, 5,200 National Guard members patrol a vast barbed wire-topped perimeter fence around the U.S. Capitol in nearby federal buildings. Lawmakers and governors have protested the need for their presence, and federal agencies have declined to disclose specific details about threats.

Troops have been in Washington, D.C., away from their day jobs and families, since after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, carried out by Trump supporters; law enforcement and National Guard officials say there has been credible intelligence chatter about other attempts to sack or blow up the legislative hall, including on Thursday.

Reports indicate the request asks for the National Guard to stay for two more months. The Guard mission is scheduled to end March 12, but officials had not previously said whether fencing and other protective measures would come down. The request for an extended presence suggests the giant black barriers will remain in place.

"From our end, it's pre-decisional," the official said, noting Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ultimately has the power to authorize the extension.

The defense official could not say when the request was made other than that staff was made aware on Thursday. March 4 is when the U.S. Capitol Police indicated in public statements that an unnamed militia was planning a Capitol breach on or about March 4, the day that has significance for pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theorists.

The Capitol Police stated that additional manpower and security measures would be put into place to protect members of Congress and the Capitol complex. The House of Representatives canceled its meetings for Thursday in response to the threat, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later backtracked, saying the move was unrelated to the perceived threats from right-wing supporters.

Pelosi has been criticized by GOP lawmakers for refusing to explain the threats to the Capitol and the need for National Guard troops and fencing. The National Guard has explained that its mission is in support of requests by the Secret Service, the Park Police, the Capitol Police, and the district's Metropolitan Police.


Comment: It is unclear if any or all of these agencies initiated a new request.