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FBI tracking chatter that extremists could pose as National Guard to access Inauguration, report says

John Bacon
USA TODAY
Armed National Guard troops walk past the U.S. Capitol two days before the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021.

The FBI has uncovered online chatter indicating some far-right extremists are considering posing as National Guard members in Washington as the nation's capital prepares to host the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The warning comes as the number of arrests stemming from the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol surpassed 100, the Justice Department said. The riot, blamed for five deaths, prompted unprecedented security preparations ahead of Wednesday's event.

The Post said the FBI on Monday privately warned law enforcement agencies that some extremists have also reviewed maps of areas of the city that could be considered vulnerable, the intelligence report warns.

The Post described the document as a summary of threats that the FBI identified in a Monday intelligence briefing. "Lone wolves” and adherents of the QAnon extremist ideology, some of whom joined other supporters of President Donald Trump – who falsely claims the election was rigged – in the violent siege Jan. 6, have indicated they plan to be in Washington for Biden's swearing-in ceremony, the Post said.

The report comes as the Pentagon continues to vet the 25,000 National Guard members who will bolster security for the event.

"While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital," Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said in a statement.

News you should know:

  • The Transportation Security Administration is adding federal marshals to more flights and security dogs at airports. TSA will also aid in security entrances to the “green zone” in downtown Washington.
  • The National Mall, a  dazzling two-mile stretch of monuments in Washington and a top tourist attraction, is closed through Inauguration Day.

Ashley Biden won't be joining her father's administration

Ashley Biden, the daughter of President Elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, said Tuesday that she will not be working in her father's administration. Biden, speaking on NBC News’ TODAY show, said she hopes to "use this platform to  advocate for social justice, for mental health, to be involved in community development and revitalization.” Biden, a social worker and activist who formerly served as director of the Delaware Center for Justice, said she does not expect that her mother will be having tea with first lady Melania Trump anytime soon.

“I don’t think they’re doing the traditional protocol, which is unfortunate, but I think we’re all OK with it," she said.

Woman accused of stealing Nancy Pelosi's laptop is arrested

A woman accused of stealing Nancy Pelosi's laptop during the Capitol riot has turned herself into authorities in Pennsylvania. Riley Williams is charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds. An informant told the FBI that Williams "intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service." The informant, who claims to be a former romantic partner of Williams, told the FBI the deal fell through. The FBI says Williams either still has the laptop or destroyed it.

More than 100 charged in Capitol riot

The Justice Department has received nearly 200,000 digital tips from the public and brought charges against more than 100 people stemming from Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said Tuesday. Investigations of other suspects are ongoing, Rosen said in a statement. Rosen also pledged "no tolerance for anyone who attempts to mar" Inauguration Day.

"The American people have demonstrated that they will not allow mob violence to go unanswered," Rosen said. "As Americans, we all should seek to have a safe and peaceful Inauguration Day, and if we hold fast to our country’s Constitution and traditions, we will."

Texas man accused of threatening family if they turned him in

A Texas man who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 is accused of threatening to kill his two minor children if they told authorities of his involvement, according to federal court documents released Monday. The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington charges Guy Reffitt with obstruction of justice and knowingly entering a restricted building without lawful authority.

Reffitt is described as an apparent militia member who traveled to Washington with guns to "protect his country." The affidavit states that Reffitt told his son that "if he crossed the line and reported Reffitt to police, putting the family in jeopardy," then Reffitt would “do what he had to do.” The son understood the statement as a threat to his life. Reffitt's wife also told the FBI Reffitt has threatened the family. Reffitt's daughter told the FBI that Reffitt threatened to shoot her phone if she posted damaging photos on social media.

Poll: Police response would have been stronger if rioters were Black

Most Americans believe the police response to the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol would have been harsher if the rioters had been mostly Black rather than mostly white, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds. A 55% majority says law enforcement would have employed harsher tactics against the melee than they did, almost double the 28% who say the response would have been the same. Just 9% say the response would have been less harsh to a largely Black mob.

"It kind of just showed the whole world about how there's white privilege and how the justice system really fears on color," says Jonathan Muteba, 28, an African-American engineer from Somerville, Massachusetts, who was among those polled.

– Susan Page and Sarah Elbeshbishi