TSA bolsters airport security ahead of pro-Trump rally at U.S. Capitol

By David Shepardson and Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Travelers arriving at the airport nearest Washington, D.C., will face increased security in the run-up to a planned Saturday rally supporting people charged with taking part in the deadly Jan. 6 riot, the Transportation Security Administration said.

“Travelers will notice increased law enforcement and canine presence along with a generally higher level of awareness in TSA’s intelligence-driven, risk-based approach to transportation security,” a TSA spokesperson told Reuters, referring to Reagan National Airport, in Virginia just across the Potomac River.

Hundreds of far-right demonstrators are expected in the District of Columbia for the “Justice For J6” rally, a reference to the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump in an attempt to stop certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.

Trump has continued his false claims that his defeat was the result of widespread election fraud, an assertion that was rejected by multiple courts, state election authorities and members of his own administration.

The pro-Trump group organizing the Sept. 18 rally, Look Ahead America, has alleged that the more than 600 people facing criminal charges over the Jan. 6 riots have been mistreated and singled out because of their political views.

Police have ramped up security around the Capitol in response, mindful of the scenes that played out early this year when rioters attacked police, smashed through windows into the building and sent lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence running for safety.

A fence that was put up around the Capitol following that day, which had been taken down in July, was being reassembled in place around the white-domed building on Thursday.

The fencing separated the lawns of the Capitol grounds from other government landmarks including the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, congressional office buildings and the Capitol Reflecting Pool just west of Capitol Hill, where protesters were scheduled to gather on Saturday.

There were few other signs of beefed-up security, though plexiglass police shields could be seen stacked at police checkpoints inside doorways to the Capitol building.

Four people died on Jan. 6, one fatally shot by police and three from medical emergencies. A Capitol Police officer who had been attacked by protesters died the following day. Four police officers who took part in the defense of the Capitol later committed suicide.

The U.S. Capitol Police on Wednesday said it has asked the Pentagon to provide National Guard troops if they are needed to help with security.

Trump referred to the upcoming protest in a statement on Thursday, saying, “Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election.”

Police and congressional leaders said they are prepared for Saturday’s protest, which will come at a time that most members of Congress will be out of town.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, participating at a forum in Britain on Thursday, said, “They have their plans. Everybody will be more ready for them.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Jan Wolfe; Additional reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)

U.S. House committee demands records over Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The congressional committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol demanded a range of documents on Wednesday from American agencies, including communications records from former President Donald Trump’s White House.

The House of Representatives Select Committee asked for White House communications records on and leading up to Jan. 6. The panel also requested documents from the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Interior and Justice, the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The committee’s Democratic chairman, Representative Bennie Thompson, gave the agencies two weeks to produce the materials.

“Our Constitution provides for a peaceful transfer of power, and this investigation seeks to evaluate threats to that process, identify lessons learned and recommend laws, policies, procedures, rules, or regulations necessary to protect our republic in the future,” Thompson wrote in a letter to the National Archives and Records Administration, and the seven other agencies.

The attack occurred as Congress was meeting to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory over Trump, and delayed that process.

The committee said it wanted information on the attack itself and the run-up to the events of the day, including the gathering and dissemination of intelligence, security preparations and the role agencies played in defending the Capitol.

Four people died on the day of the violence, one shot dead by police and the other three of natural causes. A Capitol Police officer who had been attacked by protesters died the following day. Four police officers who took part in the defense of the Capitol later took their own lives. More than a hundred police officers were injured.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Franklin Paul and Jonathan Oatis)

Man claiming to have bomb near U.S. Capitol surrenders to police

By Julio-Cesar Chavez and Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A man who claimed to have a bomb in a pickup truck near the U.S. Capitol surrendered to police on Thursday after a standoff that paralyzed a swath of Washington for more than five hours.

Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger told reporters that the man, identified as Floyd Ray Roseberry, parked his vehicle on a sidewalk outside the U.S. Library of Congress at about 9:15 a.m. EDT (1315 GMT) and told an officer who approached him that he had a bomb while holding what appeared to be a detonator.

Police shut down streets and evacuated nearby buildings as they negotiated with Roseberry.

“He gave up and did not resist and our folks were able to take him into custody without incident,” said Manger.

Police did not say whether he had any explosives.

A video livestreamed on Facebook showed Roseberry, a bald white man with a goatee, speaking inside a black truck parked on a sidewalk.

“The revolution’s on, it’s here,” he said in the video, while appearing to hold a large metal cannister on his lap. “I’m trying to get (U.S. President) Joe Biden on the phone.”

His ex-wife, Crystal Roseberry, told Reuters that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had threatened her with firearms in the past. She said she divorced him about eight years ago.

“He’s crazy. He pulled a gun on me and his sister, and shot at me numerous times,” said the woman.

Facebook deactivated the livestream and removed the man’s profile after about four hours.

Federal agents raided Roseberry’s home in Grover, North Carolina, during the standoff in the U.S. capital.

Neighbors said Roseberry would set off explosives in his yard and disrupt deer hunters by shooting his gun repeatedly.

“He didn’t want nobody killing no deer,” neighbor Wayne Davis told Reuters.

In Washington, the ordinarily crowded Capitol Hill area was relatively deserted, with the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate out of session.

Police blocked off roads surrounding the Capitol complex as fire and rescue trucks headed to the area. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it was sending a bomb technician to support police. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also responded.

Nearby buildings, including the U.S. Supreme Court, were evacuated.

High-security fencing was erected in the area after the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, but it was removed by mid-July.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Lawrence Hurley, Sarah N. Lynch, Mark Hosenball, Julio-Cesar Chavez and Elizabeth Culliford; Writing by David Morgan; Editing by Andy Sullivan, Chizu Nomiyama and Sonya Hepinstall)

Pelosi announces creation of new committee to probe Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday there will be a new House committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, after Senate Republicans in May blocked the creation of an independent commission to probe the assault.

Speaking at a news conference, Pelosi, a Democrat, declined to spell out a timeline for the panel to investigate, saying it will be “as long as it takes.” She gave no details of the make-up of the panel, but made clear both parties would be expected to name members, saying she hoped that House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy will appoint “responsible people” to the panel.

Pelosi said it would have been preferable to have an outside commission, and that she had not totally given up on that idea. The House passed legislation to set up an independent bipartisan commission, but Senate Republicans blocked it, saying existing committee probes as well as prosecutors’ investigations made it unnecessary.

“We see this as complementary, not instead of, and hopeful that there could be a commission at some point,” Pelosi said.

“The Capitol of the United States has always been a glorious beacon of democracy for the American people and the world,” Pelosi said. She said that the select committee will be “about seeking and finding the truth” about the events of Jan. 6.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Frances Kerry)

Two charged for pepper-spraying police officer who died after assault on U.S. Capitol

By Brad Heath and Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Monday charged two men with pepper-spraying three Capitol Police officers, one of whom later died, during the Jan. 6 assault on Congress by Donald Trump supporters trying to overturn his election defeat.

Julian Elie Khater and George Pierre Tanios are facing multiple counts, including assaulting police with a deadly weapon, after investigators said they sprayed at least three officers with an unidentified, but powerful, chemical agent.

One of those officers, Brian Sicknick, was later rushed to a hospital and died the next day.

Khater and Tanios are not charged with killing Sicknick, whose cause of death remains unclear. A law enforcement source familiar with the matter said it is still too early in the probe to know if Tanios or Khater directly bear any responsibility for Sicknick’s death.

According to the complaint, the FBI said the two men “appeared to time the deployment of chemical substances to coincide with other rioters’ efforts to forcibly remove the bike rack barriers that were preventing the rioters from moving closer to the Capitol building.”

Khater, 32, of State College, Pennsylvania, was arrested as he disembarked from an airplane at Newark Airport in New Jersey. Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, West Virginia, was arrested at his residence in West Virginia. Both are scheduled to make initial appearances in court later this afternoon.

The FBI located Khater after a tipster who worked with him at a food establishment shared his Linkedin page.

Tanios, meanwhile, operates Sandwich U – a shop in Morgantown, West Virginia that makes “fat” sandwiches, a type of sandwich containing greasy foods such as fries or mozzarella sticks that first rose to popularity among Rutgers University students in his hometown of New Brunswick, New Jersey.

The FBI said it identified Tanios through witnesses who recognized his photo, including a former business partner who also said Tanios was embroiled in a legal dispute amid allegations he had embezzled $435,000 in a prior business venture.

According to a court filing, the government is seeking to have Tanios detained.

In video footage, investigators say Khater walked toward Tanios and said: “Give me that bear shit” and reached into a backpack Tanios was carrying. Tanios then replied: “Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet…It’s still early.”

The complaint said the officers were temporarily blinded and disabled by the substance and “needed medical attention and assistance from fellow officers.”

Reuters could not immediately determine who will be representing Khater or Tanios.

More than 300 people have already been charged in connection with riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by a mob who were hoping to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election.

Five people, including Sicknick, died in connection with the deadly attack, and lawmakers hid in fear for their lives.

In court filings last week, the Justice Department revealed it intends to file charges against more than 100 additional defendants, in what it described as the most complex investigation it has ever handled.

(Reporting by Brad Heath and Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Andrea Ricci)

Capitol Police ask National Guard to stay for two more months: defense official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Capitol Police have asked the Pentagon to extend the National Guard’s mission to protect the U.S. Capitol for an additional two months, a defense official told Reuters on Thursday.

National Guard troops were dispatched to the Capitol grounds after the Jan. 6 attack by supporters of former President Donald Trump, and tall fencing has been erected to extend the security perimeter.

There are currently about 5,200 National Guard troops around the building. The mission was set to end on March 12.

“We should have them here as long as they are needed,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference.

She also said retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Russel Honoré has submitted draft recommendations for long-term security improvements to the Capitol complex.

She did not provide details but said Congress will have to review them and make decisions “about what is feasible.” Congress would have to approve emergency funding to implement such plans, she said.

The defense official, who was speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Capitol Police’s request had been received by the Pentagon and would be examined, and said it was highly likely that it would be approved.

Security around the Capitol was tight on Thursday after police warned that a militia group might try to attack it to mark a key date on the calendar of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

A bulletin issued on Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said an unidentified group of “militia violent extremists” discussed plans in February to “take control of the U.S. Capitol and remove Democratic lawmakers on or about March 4.”

March 4 is the day when QAnon adherents believe that Trump, who was defeated by President Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election, will be sworn in for a second term in office. Up until 1933, March 4 was the date of the inauguration.

The Capitol Police, a force of about 2,300 officers and civilian employees, is responsible for protecting the Capitol grounds, lawmakers, visitors and those working there. The National Guard in Washington, D.C., is under the control of the Pentagon, an unusual arrangement as the 50 states have authority over their own National Guard.

Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, which also responded on Jan. 6, is under the control of the city government.

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin said that she had heard about a 60-day extension request and that the National Guard was asking states for troop 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 said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sonya Hepinstall)

Oath Keepers militia members accused of conspiracy for roles in U.S. Capitol siege

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Prosecutors on Tuesday accused three people affiliated with a far-right militia group with conspiring to breach the U.S. Capitol, the first time they have directly accused people of organizing the violent uprising that left five people dead.

Thomas Edward Caldwell, 65, of Clarke County, Virginia, whom investigators said has a leadership role in the Oath Keepers group, was named in a criminal complaint as having participated in the Capitol riots. His fellow members Jessica Watkins, 38, of Champaign County, Ohio, and Donovan Ray Crowl, also of Ohio, were also charged.

Caldwell, Watkins and Crowl are accused of conspiring against the United States and conspiring to prevent the government from discharging its duties, among other offenses.

Caldwell, who told a federal judge on Tuesday he is on disability after retiring from the U.S. Navy, said he looks forward to proving at trial that “every single charge is false.”

Jon Schaffer, a guitarist for the Indiana heavy metal band Iced Earth who was photographed during the riot wearing an Oath Keepers cap, also stands accused of using bear spray on police officers as the crowd tried to force its way past them, but was not named in the conspiracy.

Investigators said Caldwell used Facebook to communicate with fellow members of the Oath Keepers and helped make hotel arrangements for their stay in the Washington, D.C. area. He later posted photos from the siege, saying: “Us storming the castle. Please share… I am such an instigator!”

Watkins and Crowl appeared in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on Tuesday. Asked by a federal judge if she understood the charges against her, Watkins said: “I understand what you said. I don’t understand how I got them.”

A federal prosecutor told a judge in Caldwell’s case it was “likely” additional charges could be on the table, including rioting and seditious conspiracy.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York, and Brad Heath and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Pelosi, Mnuchin approach 11th hour on U.S. COVID-19 aid talks

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were expected to try again on Thursday to reach a deal on COVID-19 relief, while the House of Representatives stood ready for a second day to move a Democratic bill if talks fail.

The two sides appeared to be about $600 billion apart on spending, as lawmakers prepared to depart Washington for the final weeks of the 2020 presidential and congressional election campaign. Mnuchin has offered a proposal approaching $1.6 trillion. House Democrats were poised to vote on legislation containing $2.2 trillion in aid.

A bipartisan deal has been long delayed by disagreements over Democratic demands for aid to state and local governments and Republican assistance for a provision protecting businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

Pelosi and Mnuchin met for 90 minutes in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and each emerged pledging to continue discussions.

Mnuchin raised hopes of an agreement by telling reporters that the discussions had made “a lot of progress in a lot of areas.”

Pelosi’s office was not immediately available for comment. But lawmakers and securities analysts viewed the day’s expected talks as a last-gasp effort to secure relief ahead of the Nov. 3 election for tens of millions of Americans and business including U.S. airlines, which were due to begin furloughing over 32,000 workers.

The Trump administration has proposed a $20 billion extension in aid for the battered airline industry, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters late on Wednesday. The extension would run for six months.

Mnuchin said separately that a deal would also include direct payments to American individuals and families.

Pressure for a deal has been mounting on the White House and Congress, from the devastating effects of a coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 7.2 million people and killed over 207,000 in the United States.

The House was expected to vote on its $2.2 trillion Democratic package, a day after initial plans for action were delayed to give more time for a deal to come together.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has not participated directly in the negotiations, said on Wednesday that the House bill’s spending total was too high.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Chizu Nomiyama)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s coffin arrives at Supreme Court as three days of tributes begin

By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States began three days of tributes to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Wednesday, as pallbearers carried her flag-draped coffin into the white marble court building and members of the public lined up to pay their respects.

Wearing dark suits and black face masks due to the coronavirus pandemic, dozens of the liberal icon’s former clerks stood at attention as the coffin was carried up the court’s broad steps and into the Great Hall, where a private ceremony was planned for friends and family.

Members of the public watched from behind barricades as they awaited a public viewing due to start at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT).

“It’s almost like I felt the hand of God on my shoulder saying you have got to come and pay your respects to this person who was a fierce champion of women’s voices and women’s rights,” said Cecilia Ryan, 64, who drove 12 hours from the Chicago area.

Ginsburg, who over the course of her long legal career championed gender equality and other liberal causes, in recent years became something of a pop icon for the American left. She died on Friday at age 87.

After two days of public viewing under the neoclassical court building’s massive Corinthian columns, Ginsburg will on Friday become the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol when her casket is placed in National Statuary Hall.

Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was also mourned at the Capitol in a similar ceremony in 2005, but as someone who did not hold government or military office, she lay “in honor,” not “in state.”

Both historic events for Ginsburg, however, come with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that, due to the pandemic, a formal ceremony to be held on Friday morning will be limited to invited guests only.

At the courthouse, which remains closed to the public due to the pandemic, the justice will lie in repose under the portico outdoors to allow for public viewing starting at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT).

Officials said social distancing and face coverings will be required to participate to guard against the spread of the virus. Flowers and other offerings are forbidden on the court’s plaza or its great flight of steps.

The justices for the first time in the court’s history heard oral arguments in May by teleconference, and will do so again next month. Though the building is closed, Ginsburg’s courtroom chair and the bench in front of it have been draped with black wool crepe to mark the occasion, a tradition that dates back at least to 1873. A black drape has also been hung over the courtroom doors.

“On a personal level, she was such an amazing person. She had a mind like a steel trap,” said Jill Alexander, 59, whose husband served as a clerk for Ginsburg when she was an appeals-court judge.

Inside the courthouse, the coffin was due to be moved on to the Lincoln catafalque, a pine board platform draped in black cloth that was used to support President Abraham Lincoln’s coffin when he lay in state in the Capitol’s Rotunda after his assassination in 1865. The catafalque was loaned to the court by the U.S. Congress for the ceremony. A 2016 portrait Ginsburg by Constance P. Beaty will be on display in the hall.

Public viewing runs until 10 p.m. on Wednesday and between 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Thursday. A private interment service is planned for next week at Arlington National Cemetery. Ginsburg’s husband, Martin Ginsburg, was buried there in 2010.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Will Dunham and Scott Malone)

Rabbi Jonathan Cahn Speaks Bold Truth To Power

Rabbi Jonathan Cahn spoke prophetic words loud and clear in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall Wednesday night.

“The propitious smile of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which heaven itself hath ordained,” Cahn said, quoting George Washington from his 1789 inaugural speech.

“We stand tonight on Capitol Hill,” Cahn then added, “in the city named after the one who gave that prophetic warning, to ask can a nation that drive out the name of God from its public square, the Word of God from its schools and the ways of God from its culture and still expect the smiles of God to shine upon it?”

The talk by Rabbi Cahn was part of an event hosted by Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann and emceed by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.  Many government officials, members of Congress and members of the judiciary were in attendance.

Rabbi Cahn spared no member of the government in his comments regarding removal of the truth of Christ from the country.

“Can the blood of 50 million unborn children cry out to heaven from this land and the smiles of heaven still remain?

“Members of Congress, can a government call evil good and good evil and forge laws that war against the laws of the Almighty and the smiles of heaven still remain?

“Supreme Court justices, can you strike down the statutes of the Almighty and overturn the judgments of the Most High and still expect the smiles of heaven to remain?

“Mr. President, can you place your left hand on the Word of God to assume your office and with your right hand sign laws which break the very Word upon which you swore and still expect the smiles of heaven to remain?

“The voice of our first president cries out to us tonight and answers, no you cannot do so and still expect the smiles of heaven to remain on this land.”

The event was broadcast online via World News Daily.