Egged on by Donald Trump and emboldened by their deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, far-right extremists are planning multiple armed attempts to overthrow the government. The Capitol Police briefed House Democrats on the plans Monday night, warning them not to divulge too many details, HuffPost reports, because it could compromise the law enforcement response or provide additional publicity that would draw new participants.
One of the plots would have armed terrorists surrounding the Capitol, the White House, and the Supreme Court, trying to block the functioning of government and likely assassinating congressional Democrats as they tried to go to work. If for some reason you weren’t yet comfortable calling the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol a coup attempt, you need to get comfortable with that word real fast.
“They were talking about 4,000 armed ‘patriots’ to surround the Capitol and prevent any Democrat from going in,” is how Rep. Conor Lamb described the plot in a CNN interview. “They have published rules of engagement, meaning when you shoot and when you don’t. So this is an organized group that has a plan. They are committed to doing what they’re doing because I think in their minds, you know, they are patriots and they’re talking about 1776 and so this is now a contest of wills.”
Another planned far-right event is trying to be the “largest armed protest ever to take place on American soil,” and a third would be in honor of Ashli Babbitt, the woman killed by police while trying to forcibly enter the Speaker’s Lobby of the Capitol.
While some Republicans might also be targeted for their refusal to try to overturn the elections and keep Trump in the White House, there’s also a concern that “all these members [of Congress] who were in league with the insurrectionists who love to carry their guns” could themselves pose a threat. “You can’t just let them bypass security and walk right up to [Joe] Biden and [Kamala] Harris at inauguration,” one of the Democrats on the call told HuffPost.
The briefing was “horrifying, the most chilling hour imaginable,” someone on the call told The Hill. “If you weren’t afraid when you got on the call, you were afraid when you got off,” another said.
That call was held after reports of FBI warnings of planned violence and increasing danger signs from the online conspiracist far right. In the wake of Parler being shut down and with law enforcement now—finally, belatedly—paying attention, the extremists are moving their planning to secret channels.
Donald Trump owns this. He has encouraged his supporters to believe that the election was stolen, that their country is being stolen, that armed insurrection is the right response. Congressional Republicans own this, from senators like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz to House members like Mo Brooks, Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert, and many more—including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has encouraged them.
People are going to die. It sounds like law enforcement is maybe starting to come to the realization that yes, far-right domestic terrorists are a major threat, and that perhaps it’s time to do something about that before they assassinate most of Congress. But even if the Capitol Police and FBI and Secret Service and whoever else manage to protect every significant member of the government, this is a profound threat to democracy and to the government. It needed to be shut down long ago, but now will just have to do. And recognizing Trump’s role in this is critical—if the leader of the insurrection is allowed to stay at the head of the government without penalty, then of course his followers will have reason to think they can get away with literal mass murder.