“We’ve done this four years ago and even four years before then. But this is the first time we’re putting in place a plan where there’s been an active assault on the institutions of our democracy,” Dotson said he told his officers. “This is as serious of a law enforcement threat as I’ve seen, potentially, in my career.”
Dotson said Amtrak’s Union Station in Washington, D.C., was relatively calm during the Jan. 6 riots, and in fact people seeking to escape the unrest ended up sheltering there. The cavernous train station and shopping area is just a few blocks from the Capitol complex.
“When the activities at the Capitol turned violent, the people that … didn’t want anything to do with that sought refuge,” Dotson said. “So they came to our station.” Still, he said his officers had to confront some rally-goers who didn’t like Amtrak’s mask requirement.
How to protect members of Congress while in airports is of particular concern, after several viral videos last week showed lawmakers trying to catch flights being encircled by aggressive crowds. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of President Donald Trump’s most loyal allies on Capitol Hill, was not loyal enough for throngs of Trump supporters who surrounded him at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, yelling “traitor.”
Hoping to head that off next week, airports, airlines and security agencies have begun intense collaborations, including keeping tabs on which flights will be carrying lawmakers. Plans are also being made to ensure lawmakers will have safe places to wait, such as airline lounges, and potentially escorts in public areas, according to an airport representative familiar with the discussions. In some cases, federal marshals may accompany their flights.
Meanwhile, FAA has warned that it will throw the book at unruly passengers following multiple incidents of people disrupting flights in and out of Washington.
“Over the last few days, we have seen a disturbing increase in onboard incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told CNBC Thursday. “These incidents have stemmed, in some cases, from refusal to follow airline policies on face coverings, and also we saw a trend after the breach of the Capitol last week.”
FAA has the authority to fine passengers up to $35,000 and seek prison time if their behaviors threaten other passengers or the aircraft. The agency said it will be turning to those tougher penalties instead of warnings and other slaps on the wrist that it has pursued in some past cases. FAA said the new policy will be in effect until March 30.
Calls have grown for Capitol rioters to be added to the federal no-fly list, including from incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and members of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The FBI has not disclosed whether it has added anyone who participated in the Jan. 6 riots to the list, but said in a statement to POLITICO that it “will continue to nominate predicated subjects to the federal terrorism watchlist, as appropriate, in accordance with existing laws and policies.”
The agency further noted that agencies and local law…