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Democratic Congressman On Potential Threats To Inauguration Day Security

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Law enforcement and members of Congress are still reckoning with how the U.S. Capitol became the scene of violent insurrection that left five people dead last week. And even as they look back, they're preparing for the possibility of more violence. Democratic Congressman Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania is among the lawmakers who has been briefed about new threats against the Capitol. He joins us now.

Congressman, welcome.

CONOR LAMB: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Understanding that you cannot get into anything classified, can you share the headline from this briefing that is going to stick with you?

LAMB: I think it was just the specificity of it. You know, I've been part of different briefings in my time here about threats to the United States. And what I always look at is kind of how specific are the details, which could tell you something about, you know, the amount of thought process that's gone into it...

KELLY: Sure.

LAMB: ...The intentionality of the planning. And this is pretty specific in terms of dates, numbers of people, weaponry, rules of engagement. That was probably the one that jumped out at me the most because protesters don't use rules of engagement. Hostile forces do. And that tells you what we're dealing with here.

KELLY: So the briefing was pointing out that the intelligence being gathered right now indicates that these groups are using rules of engagement. You also said they talked specific numbers. Can you share the numbers?

LAMB: I'd rather not just to - I don't know. A lot of these people I know have been deplatformed, and Parler's down and everything. I don't want to do anything...

KELLY: Yeah.

LAMB: ...To spread or attract attention to that number, but it was an alarming one. And I think the fact that they had specific goals - again, it shows a level of planning that shows they're trying to achieve an objective here by force. I mean, that's what I hear. Like, as a military officer, you name specific numbers of troops that you need to accomplish a mission, and that's what it sounded like to me.

KELLY: Did you come away from the security briefing reassured that the security services have got this under control and that we're not going to see anything like a repeat of what happened last week on Inauguration Day next week? Or did you come away - you sound worried.

LAMB: I came away thinking that we were making steps in the right direction. But, you know, I don't think any of us will be fully convinced and reassured until we both hear more and see more. So, you know, I took the officials at their word that they had good plans in the works and a command structure and lots and lots of boots on the ground at their disposal. But then all that needs to be coordinated and executed, and the people have to show up here well-trained and ready to go. And that's something I think our leadership is just going to have to reevaluate on a hourly basis and really demand full and specific briefings and accountability from these people every step of the way.

KELLY: One thing that struck a lot of people last week was the Capitol Police looking woefully outnumbered. For the inauguration, it is the Secret Service that is running the show. Did you come away from this briefing confident that those two - Capitol Police, Secret Service, not to mention the National Guard, the FBI, all the other groups involved - that they're working in tandem and that they are going to be sufficiently prepared this next time?

LAMB: Again, I came away thinking that they're moving in the right direction. They sounded confident. They were pretty specific in their own plans. But I think that many more conversations have to be had about the specific measures that they're talking about and the types of, you know, gear and tactics that they are going to use against these groups on a number of different days, not just the inauguration. I mean, that's part of the issue here - is kind of every day between now and the inauguration is a potential event.

KELLY: Yeah. Last question in the few seconds we have left - you have served as an officer in the Marine Corps. And on Inauguration Day, the military will be out there conducting air patrols and playing its traditional role. We also know some of the rioters who stormed the Capitol are former U.S. military. And I wonder, how should we think about that? How do you think about that?

LAMB: It makes me sick. I saw a picture of them beating a police officer, and you can see the Marine Corps logo on one of the hats. And, you know, I'm a Marine officer. It makes me sick. And it just reinforces the way that we need to train our young Marines and airmen and sailors not just in specific tactics and ways of war fighting but in ethics and character. And the veterans community has to police its own, and that's something I'm going to be working on going forward.

KELLY: Congressman Lamb, thank you very much.

LAMB: Thank you.

KELLY: That is Conor Lamb, former Marine Corps officer and Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.