The Capitol complex will soon see reduced security and fencing more than two months after the January 6 assault on the Capitol, according to security officials.
CBS News obtained an email sent Monday by acting Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett to lawmakers and staff. In the email, Blodgett said Capitol police told him “there does not exist a known, credible threat against Congress or the Capitol Complex that warrants the temporary security fencing.”
The U.S. Capitol police and the architect of the Capitol will begin making “alterations” to the existing fencing around the Capitol, moving the fencing closer to the Capitol this week to improve traffic and pedestrian flow and removing the razor wire on the inner perimeter fence next week, according to Blodgett. Toward the end of the week of March 22, the outer perimeter fencing will be removed and traffic will reopen on Independence Avenue and Constitution Avenue. It’s the first time the area will be open since the.
Blodgett also said the National Guard presence will begin to “reduce its posture” at the Capitol in the coming weeks. “The USCP will continue to monitor the threat posture, should a change occur, plans will be reevaluated,” Blodgett added.
Earlier this month, the National Guard approved a request to extend 2,000 troops at the Capitol for up to 60 days. The U.S. Capitol police said in a statement on Monday that the current infrastructure and National Guard assistance is “temporary” and that they have already “modified” fencing along streets around the Capitol to “help drivers and pedestrians.”
“For security reasons, we will not provide a detailed timeline of specific, future changes,” according to the statement.
This comes after the top Democrat and Republican on the House Armed Services Committee called for a “measured drawdown” of National Guard troops in the U.S. Capitol, after Lloyd Austin, the Defense Secretary, approved a request from the U.S. Capitol Police for the National Guard to remain at their post through May 23. A group of GOP senators last week also wrote a letter to the U.S. Capitol Police, pushing back on the security presence and fencing at the Capitol.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week that the security presence and fencing at the Capitol reminded him of his last visit to Kabul, Afghanistan. McConnell said it looks “terrible” to have the “beacon of democracy” surrounded by National Guard troops and razor wire.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote Monday in a letter to colleagues that despite the drawdown of security and troops at the Capitol, the priority is to “move forward with an outside 9/11-type Commission, with bipartisan support.” The commission to study the January 6 attack is still stalled and the House will be out of session after this week until April 13.
Last week, General Russel Honore and a task force composed of other former senior military officials briefed House lawmakers on new security recommendations. The new recommendations include a quick reaction force and the installation of retractable fencing around the Capitol.
Nikole Killion and Rebecca Kaplan contributed reporting.
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