FBI warns police chiefs to be on high alert for extremists

FBI Director Christopher Wray.
(Image credit: Sarah Silbiger/AFP via Getty Images)

In a Wednesday phone call with police chiefs from across the U.S., FBI Director Christopher Wray warned about the potential for extremist violence in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

Wray was joined on the call by Kenneth Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. They asked police departments to serve as their eyes and ears, sharing any intelligence they gather with other law enforcement agencies. Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina told The New York Times that Wray asked the chiefs to "continue to overshare intelligence" and not assume they already know about potential threats.

The Times spoke to another police chief on the call, who said the U.S. Capitol has an extensive law enforcement presence and the concern has shifted to attacks against federal buildings, state capitols, and the homes and businesses of lawmakers. Federal officials are monitoring extremist messages being posted online, and Wray said the police chiefs should be mindful of local armed groups and people acting on their own.

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"They're very, very worried about these, what they've referred to as domestic violent extremists, embedding themselves in other protests," the unidentified chief said. "Christopher Wray seemed particularly concerned about what was sort of the disregard these folks have for democratic government. The focus was not to go after people engaged in peaceful protest. There were others embedded in that who were engaged in violence and criminal behavior."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for TheWeek.com. Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.