Domestic extremists pose the most likely threat to the presidential inauguration, particularly those who believe the incoming administration is illegitimate, according to a joint bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and eight other agencies obtained by CNN.
The assessment, dated January 14, also notes that since the attack on the US Capitol, Russian, Iranian, and Chinese influence actors have “seized the opportunity to amplify narratives in furtherance of their policy interest amid the presidential transition,” adding that there’s a lack of specific, credible information indicating that they are seeking to commit violence.
The joint assessment provides a breakdown of additional concerns leading up to inauguration day, including possible violence and cautioning of use of unauthorized, unmanned aircraft system operations that could disrupt law enforcement operations.
“In light of the storming of the US Capitol on 6 January, planned events in Washington, DC, in the lead up to and day of Inauguration Day offer continued opportunities for violence targeting public officials, government buildings, and federal and local law enforcement,” the assessment reads.
CNN previously reported that federal law enforcement officials are warning that domestic extremists are likely more emboldened to carry out attacks on President-elect Joe Biden’s upcoming inauguration and throughout 2021 after seeing the success of last week’s siege on the US Capitol.
The joint threat assessment obtained by CNN on the 59th Presidential Inauguration reiterates those warnings, maintaining that there are concerns about potential violence, and that acts of violence and criminal activity “can take place with little or no warning.”
“We assess that acts of violence and criminal activity can take place with little or no warning and be directed toward law enforcement officers, public property, and bystanders around the White House and the National Mall,” the bulletin reads.
It also notes that a confluence of events in 2020 and 2021 have fueled plotting and attacks, including Covid-19 related lockdown measures, grievances over policing and police brutality, as well as perceptions about the presidential election and its result, according to the bulletin: “We assess that these plots and attacks highlight the persistent and lethal threat DVEs pose to soft targets, government officials, and law enforcement.”
DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said Friday that the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring online chatter, but that there are no specific, credible threats at this time.
“We certainly agree there’s a good deal of online chatter. It isn’t just about Washington, by the way. There’s also conversations about state capitals but very unspecific,” Cuccinelli told CNN’s New Day, citing a briefing with state and local law enforcement earlier in the week along with FBI Director Chris Wray. “It’s that higher level of tension that we focus on.”
The joint bulletin nods to calls for violent action online and cites media reporting that violent planning has begun for Inauguration Day on various social media platforms.
Asked about CNN reporting that discussions were underway to raise the terrorism threat level, Cuccinelli said Friday, “At this point in time, the decision has been made not to raise that level.”
“Again, we are, as we communicated with our state partners, we’ve prepared our own civilian law enforcement around the country to be ready to deploy to assist state and local allies to the extent they call on us to do so,” Cuccinelli added. “We are pre-positioning people on alert statuses around the country.”
This story has been updated with additional information.