Two US Capitol Police officers suspended after Washington rampage

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Two Capitol police officers have been suspended after a pro-Trump mob over-ran the Capitol building last week as Washington continued to deal with the fallout of the violent riot ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.

Tim Ryan, the Democratic congressman who chairs the House of Representatives committee that oversees the Capitol Police’s $516m annual budget, announced the suspensions in a press conference on Monday.

One of the two suspended officers had allegedly taken “selfies” with rioters while a second was accused of putting on a Make America Great Again hat while apparently giving directions to the mob, Mr Ryan said. He added that 10 to 15 officers were under investigation in relation to the riots.

Hundreds of Trump supporters overwhelmed law enforcement officers to storm the Capitol building on Wednesday last week, leading to the deaths of five people and interrupting the certification of the US election results. 

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The US Capitol Police did not respond to a request for comment.

The suspensions come as furious lawmakers investigated why the Capitol was so easily breached by rioters and as officials frantically prepared to tighten security ahead of Mr Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

Earlier on Monday the Democratic mayor of Washington asked federal authorities to deny permits for public gatherings until after the inauguration.

In a press conference, Muriel Bowser said she had asked the US Department of the Interior to deny all permits for public gatherings until January 24, four days after the inauguration of Mr Biden. 

The National Park Service, which oversees the management of the National Mall — a strip of parkland that runs from the Capitol building to the Lincoln Memorial — said it would temporarily close access to the Washington Monument because of continued threats from groups involved in the riots at the Capitol. 

It added that it would also temporarily close some roadways and parking areas. While all closures are scheduled to end January 24, the park service said it would extend them if necessary. 

Earlier on Monday Ms Bowser said she had written to the president to request that he declare Washington to be in a state of “pre-emergency disaster” so the US capital could prepare a more effective security plan for Mr Biden’s inauguration next week.

“This is necessary because the inauguration poses several unprecedented challenges that exceed the scope of our traditional planning processes,” said Ms Bowser, referring to the recent attack on the Capitol building and the continued prevalence of Covid-19

Later on Monday Mr Trump declared a state of emergency in the District of Columbia and ordered federal assistance be given to the city as it prepared for Mr Biden’s inauguration.

Several US media outlets reported that the FBI was warning of potential violence and “armed protests” at 50 state capitals across the country in the days leading up to Mr Biden’s inauguration.

An FBI spokesperson said that while they would not comment on specific intelligence threats, the agency was supporting state, local and federal law enforcement agencies.

“Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity,” the FBI said. “As we do in the normal course of business, we are gathering information to identify any potential threats and are sharing that information with our partners.”

Chad Wolf, the acting secretary for homeland security who resigned on Monday, said he had instructed the US Secret Service to begin special security operations linked to the inauguration from Wednesday, a full week before January 20, instead of a day before as originally planned.

In an interview with The Washington Post on Monday, Steven Sund, the outgoing Capitol Police chief, said delays and refusals from officials to grant him swift help from the National Guard contributed to his forces being swiftly overwhelmed by the pro-Trump mob.

General Daniel Hokanson, the highest-ranking officer in the National Guard, on Monday told reporters that 10,000 National Guard personnel would be on hand for the inauguration, with authorisation for up to 15,000 if needed.

The Pentagon has drawn criticism for its late response to last week’s attack on the Capitol. National Guard forces arrived at the scene on Wednesday evening, almost four hours after Mr Sund launched an emergency appeal for assistance. The National Guard has so far sent 6,200 personnel to the capital in the wake of the attack.

Authorities have continued to announce arrests over last week’s violence, with Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney for the District of Columbia, telling National Public Radio over the weekend that “hundreds” of people could ultimately face charges over the storming of the Capitol.

Many of the arrested people facing federal charges are alleged by the Department of Justice to have been illegally carrying weapons ranging from handguns to homemade Molotov cocktails.

Ms Bowser on Monday said she had requested federal forces develop a security plan for all federal property, and that she had asked the DoJ and the FBI to provide daily intelligence briefings.

Additional reporting by Katrina Manson in Washington

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