Ex-FBI Chief Urges Inauguration To Go On As Planned: ‘Terrorists’ Can’t ‘Change Our Rituals’

on June 11, 2014 in Washington, DC.
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: FBI Director James Comey testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee June 11, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on "Oversight of the F... WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: FBI Director James Comey testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee June 11, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation." (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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January 12, 2021 12:11 p.m.

Former FBI director James Comey on Tuesday labeled the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol last week “terrorists” and argued that changing President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration plans in response to last week’s deadly insurrection “would be a mistake.”

“These are terrorists. It would be a mistake for the United States of America to change our rituals, the things that mark our important civic events because of them,” Comey told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on the TODAY Show. “We can be prepared. We should be prepared. We should act like the country we are: free and open and safe.”

The comments come after President-elect Joe Biden said on Monday that he was “not afraid,” to take his oath of office outdoors on Jan. 20, the day he is set to be inaugurated as the nation’s 46th president.

The National Guard Bureau announced on Monday that 6,000 National Guard troops from six states had already arrived in Washington. Gen. Daniel Hokanson told the New York Times that by the weekend, that number will have grown to 10,000 — in response to reports of potential future agitation in the nation’s capital by armed Trump supporters.

That show of force could reach up to 15,000 before Inauguration Day.

The former FBI director echoed the anger of those who have suggested that law enforcement had failed to adequately secure the Capitol ahead of the Jan. 6 attack. The insurrection has been widely perceived as an “obvious” threat as Trump’s followers publicly pledged their support for the president and fired off warnings about their plans ahead of the violent mobbing which left five people, including a Capitol police officer dead.

The Department of Homeland Security in recent months had warned that white supremacists — who proudly made their presence known among Trump’s supporters at the Capitol insurrection last week —  pose the most serious terror threat to the United States.

“You knew it was coming. You knew it was literally coming to you from the President’s rally, walking down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Comey said.

“It wasn’t a failure of imagination. It was just a failure to see a threat that was in bright daylight, coming at you,” he added.

Even as the National Guard beefs up its defenses to brace for potential future violence amid Biden’s transition, Defense Department officials expressed concern that some of the protesters who laid siege on the Capitol were former military members. While the department has not said it would search for deployed National Guard troops aligned with Trump’s supporters, officials told the Times on Monday that they were looking over photographs and videos from the protest.

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