Pelosi Says More Security Needed for U.S. Congress Against 'Enemy Within'

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attends her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in in Washington, U.S., January 15, 2021.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attends her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in in Washington, U.S., January 15, 2021. Credit: JOSHUA ROBERTS/ REUTERS

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday lawmakers would probably need more funding for security as the "the enemy is within" the House, following a warning by the Homeland Security Department of heightened threats.

The Senate is preparing to conduct its second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on a charge of inciting insurrection in a fiery speech Jan. 6 before hundreds of his supporters stormed the Capitol building in a bid to stop the certification of President Joe Biden's election victory. Five people, including a police officer, died in the violence.

The Department of Homeland Security did not cite specific threats in its bulletin, which was issued on Wednesday, but it did say some "domestic violent extremists" may feel emboldened by the Capitol rampage. "We will probably need a supplemental for more security for members, when the enemy is within the House of Representatives," Pelosi said.

Asked what she meant when referring to the "enemy within," Pelosi said: "It means we have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and who have threatened violence against other members of Congress."

More than 30 lawmakers signed a letter on Thursday calling for greater protection in their districts. They highlighted that threats against members of Congress have spiked in recent years, with the Capitol police investigating 4,894 threats in the fiscal year ending September 2018, more than five times as many as the 902 in 2016.

While top members of Congress have security details, most lawmakers do not.

Most changes members sought, including allowing them more flexibility in using their office budgets to cover security expenses, had already been made Pelosi said. She said that more probably needed to be done.

Congress, which had been easy for the public to visit compared to other Washington institutions like the White House, has put in place heightened security measures since the Jan. 6 attack.

Ahead of Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration, 8-foot-high (2.4 m high) fencing went up around the Capitol building and more than 20,000 National Guard troops descended on Washington. Thousands of the troops are expected to stay in the capital through March.

Some lawmakers have bristled under the increased security measures, such as a metal detector put in place for lawmakers to go through on the House floor. Last week, Republican lawmaker Andy Harris was found carrying a concealed gun while trying to enter the House floor.

Another Republican lawmaker, Marjorie Taylor Greene, has also come under scrutiny this week for social media posts in recent years before she took office that supported violence against Democratic politicians, including Pelosi.

Pelosi said she would be meeting with retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore for a security review of the Capitol complex later on Thursday.

In testimony given to the House Appropriations Committee, the acting chief of the Capitol Police, Yogananda Pittman, said she believed it was likely that Capitol security must change going forward.

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