Congressional lawmakers apprehensive about security at inauguration

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Lawmakers are increasingly on edge about security for the scaled-down inauguration ceremony.

Rep. Tim Ryan, Ohio Democrat, said it’s been difficult to pry details from the U.S. Capitol Police about last week’s attack ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration of the next president.

“We don’t need to know all the details, but we’re talking about an inauguration,” he said. “We have members of Congress bringing their spouses here. We have issues with the panic button for a member of Congress.”

He was referring to Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the Massachusetts Democrat who had said a panic button in her Capitol Hill office was removed sometime before last week’s attack on Congress.

Rep. James Clyburn, who chairs the inaugural committee, said he shares his colleagues’ safety concerns.

“I have talked to a lot of members over the last several days,” the South Carolina Democrat said on Fox News. “Within the last 24 hours, I have seen a reversal in their attitudes.

Members are now very, very apprehensive about next week.”

Before last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, inaugural organizers discouraged the public from attending and limited the number of available tickets due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the inauguration will take place two weeks after law enforcement failed to stop a mob from overrunning the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. It will come one week after the House impeached President Trump a second time for inciting the riot, which threatens to further inflame political tensions.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s non-voting member of Congress, said the National Park Service needs to be clearing campsites that people are setting up around Washington and that the same “insurrectionists” who stormed the Capitol are planning to descend on the city before Wednesday.

“We cannot allow NPS land in the District to be used as a staging ground for terrorist attacks,” she said in a letter to Acting NPS Director Margaret Everson that was released Thursday.

As many as 20,000 National Guard troops are expected to be deployed ahead of the inauguration.

Photos captured striking images of members of the National Guard scattered all over the Capitol this week, some of them sleeping next to their weapons.

Earlier in the week, inauguration organizers had expressed confidence about safety.

“We are confident in our security partners — the professional federal law enforcement partners, including Secret Service — who have spent months planning and preparing for the inauguration,” Adjoa Asamoah, who runs Black engagement for the inaugural committee, said on an organizing call this week.

The inauguration is a designated National Special Security Event, meaning the U.S. Secret Service takes the lead on security.

Mr. Ryan said he does have confidence in the rank-and-file of the U.S. Capitol Police force heading into the ceremony Wednesday, in part because the Secret Service and FBI will be running the show.

“We saw them do the job,” he said. “We saw them take the hits, and their role and responsibility mainly was to protect members of Congress and they did that — and the reality of it is they were let down by their leadership.”

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