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Capitol Police asks National Guard to extend deployment
Capitol Police on Thursday requested the National Guard extend its deployment of National Guardsmen at the Capitol amid heightened security concerns almost two months after the Jan. 6 attack.
"Today, US Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman formally asked the Department of Defense to extend the support provided by the National Guard to remain at the Capitol beyond March 12th," the police said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, a Defense Department official said the Pentagon was reviewing a draft request from Capitol Police to extend the deployment, which started after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Details of the potential extension "are still being worked out," the Pentagon official said.
Capitol Police provided few other details.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and former Pentagon official, said Thursday that she has heard from contacts at the National Guard that Capitol Police asked them to extend their mission for 60 days and that the Guard is "soliciting states to send contributions."
"No one likes seeing the fortress-like security around the Capitol. And no one wants to again have a security problem in and around this symbolic place," Slotkin tweeted. "But whether an extension has been requested or the mission is indeed terminating on March 12, it's critical that members of Congress get a briefing on what's behind these decisions."
Tensions were running high Thursday because of a QAnon conspiracy theory that former President Trump will be inaugurated on March 4, the traditional date for presidential inaugurations until 1933.
Fears about a possible plot by a militia group to attack the Capitol prompted House Democrats to cancel previously scheduled votes for Thursday.
Asked about the prospect of Guard troops extending their stay, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) referred questions to the officials overseeing Capitol security.
"We have to have what we need, when we need it, and in the numbers that we need it. But that's a security decision," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol on Thursday.
Pelosi has tapped retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who had coordinated the response to Hurricane Katrina, to lead a 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 all House lawmakers as early as next week.
"This issue of the National Guard is one that will be made by the Capitol Police, and the Police Board and the rest," she said. "But I'm not in a position to respond to that [question]. But we should have them here as long as they are needed."
About 5,200 Guardsmen from several states remain at the Capitol, down from the height of the deployment of about 26,000 troops from every state, three territories and Washington, D.C.
Republicans have been increasingly critical of the continued deployment of Guardsmen at the Capitol, questioning what intelligence exists to justify keeping them there beyond general threats on social media.
There have also been bipartisan concerns about the conditions Guardsmen stationed at the Capitol have faced, prompting some calls for them to return home.
In January, lawmakers were outraged after some Guardsmen were forced to rest in a parking garage instead of inside the Capitol complex. They were quickly moved back inside after photos of them cramped in the garage circulated online.
More recently, Michigan lawmakers in both parties have been expressing concern after members of the Michigan National Guard were served food provided by a contractor that was "badly undercooked, raw, moldy and even filled with metal shavings," as the lawmakers wrote in a letter this week to the head of the National Guard Bureau.
After reports of the food issues surfaced, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said at a news conference she does "not have any intention of agreeing to an extension of this deployment."
Mike Lillis contributed. Updated at 7:13 p.m.