Pelosi warns of threat from ‘all the president’s men’
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday called for more funding for Capitol security, citing the ongoing threat of violence from “all the president’s men” — a reference to the mob of former President Trump’s supporters who ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“Between COVID — where we need to have vaccinations more broadly in the Capitol so that many more people can come here and do their jobs — [and] the threat of all the president’s men out there, we have to ensure with our security that we are safe enough to do our job, but not impeding [that work],” Pelosi told reporters at a press briefing.
The security issue has been front and center since the mob overwhelmed law enforcement officers and forced the evacuation of lawmakers who were certifying President Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
On Wednesday, the House moved up a vote because Capitol Police and the FBI had warned that some of the militia groups participating in the Jan. 6 rampage had designs on a second attack on March 4 — a symbolic date which marked the inauguration of presidents until the early 1930s.
Those conservative conspiracy theorists, law enforcers warned, believed Trump would somehow return to the White House on that day.
The threat of another violent attack on the Capitol had unnerved many lawmakers who were targeted on Jan. 6.
Pelosi on Thursday, however, downplayed the significance of the new security threat in the decision to keep the House out of session on Thursday. She noted that Republicans launch their annual issues retreat Thursday afternoon, and the House had a short floor schedule already in place to accommodate that event.
“I don’t think anybody should take any encouragement that, because some trouble-makers might show up, that we changed our whole schedule,” Pelosi said. “No, we just moved it a few hours, and it largely will accommodate the Republicans going to their own [conference].”
Yet a number of Democrats — lawmakers and leadership aides alike — had said Wednesday that the schedule change was a direct result of the violent threats. And Pelosi on Thursday acknowledged that security concerns were a factor, noting that the logistics of keeping 435 House lawmakers safe is a taller order than ensuring the safety of 100 senators, who remain in session Thursday.
“Frankly, there are a lot of us,” she said. “The Senate is in, and they should be. We’re at least four times more people, and therefore all that that implies in terms of numbers of people in the Capitol — if in fact there’s any troublemakers around.”
The comments come as the Capitol Police have asked the Pentagon to extend the deployment of thousands of National Guard troops, who have been stationed around the Capitol complex since Jan. 6.
Pelosi declined to comment on the prospect of keeping those troops around for another two months, deflecting questions of Capitol security to the officials in charge of it.
“We have to have what we need, when we need it, and in the numbers that we need it,” Pelosi said. “But that’s a security decision.”
Pelosi has tapped retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré to lead an in-depth review of Capitol security and recommend reforms. Honoré has provided congressional leaders with an early draft of that report, Pelosi said, and the recommendations could be shared with the full House as early as next week.
The Speaker emphasized the need to strike a security balance that allows lawmakers — and eventually the public — to access the complex safely, without creating a protective barrier so overbearing that the building becomes unusable. And that, she said, will require more funding in the form of a supplemental spending bill.
“It’s going to take more money to protect the Capitol in a way that enables people to come here, children to come and see our democracy in action, all of you [reporters] to cover what happens here safely, members to be comfortable that they are safe when they are here and not be concerned about what happened last time,” she said. “That just doesn’t have a place in a democracy.”
Despite the ongoing security threat, lawmakers in both parties have expressed concerns that the emergency security measures following the Jan. 6 attack — not only the Guard troops, but also the imposing fence encircling the entire complex — are both disproportionate to the threat and send the wrong message to the country.
Pelosi seems to agree, saying there are limits to security measures that should be in place.
“I live in San Francisco. So people say, ‘Well, if you want to be totally protected from earthquakes, you just live in … an iron igloo. And then you’re completely safe,’ ” Pelosi said.
“Well who wants to do that?”