The Federal Aviation Administration is also cracking down on what it calls a “disturbing increase” in threatening or violent behaviour by airline passengers, putting in place a zero-tolerance policy against disruptive behaviour through March, The New York Times reported. The move comes in response to the Capitol attack and to the longer-running problem of passengers who refuse to wear masks.
Under a new order signed by its chief, Steve Dickson, the FAA plans to take legal action against passengers who assault, threaten, intimidate or interfere with airline crew members, which could include fines of up to $US35,000 ($45,000) and referral for criminal prosecution. It will no longer issue warnings as a first step.
“Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way,” Dickson said in a statement.
The actions follow the storming of the US Capitol last week by Trump supporters and other disturbances on flights and at airports. Officials have warned of plans for armed protests in Washington and all 50 states.
Vice-President Mike Pence is expected to speak on Friday (AEDT) at a briefing on inauguration security. It will be his first public appearance since the January 6 attack.
In Washington, the perimeter of a high fence surrounding the Capitol was pushed out to encompass the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.
Nearby roads were closed, some businesses said they would shut down next week, and the city’s public transportation agency said it was closing certain metro stations and rerouting bus lines from Friday through January 21.
The National Park Service said a decision had yet to be made on whether to close the National Mall running from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. The park service closed the Washington Monument to tours and Mayor Muriel Bowser asked visitors to stay away from the city.
Law enforcement officials have warned of potential violence beyond the US capital. In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine said the statehouse and state office buildings in downtown Columbus would be closed from Sunday to Wednesday.
Mary McCord, head of the Justice Department’s national security division under former president Barack Obama, warned the threat could remain well beyond the inauguration.
“You will see a resurgence of activity and planning and extremists’ threats. So I don’t think this problem is going away with this president leaving the White House,” McCord said.
The US House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on charges of incitement on Thursday (AEDT) after his supporters rampaged through the Capitol, leaving five dead, following a speech by the Republican President reiterating his false claim that Biden, a Democrat, beat him because of widespread fraud.
Federal authorities have arrested dozens of people as part of their investigation into the Capitol assault. A congressional official said the Senate Intelligence Committee would probe law enforcement agencies’ handling of intelligence that preceded the attack once Democrats take control of the Senate.
More than 30 House Democrats, including New Jersey’s Mikie Sherrill, have asked the acting House and Senate sergeants-at-arms and the acting head of the Capitol Police for visitor logs, videos and other information about who was in the building that day.
Sherrill, who has accused Republicans of inciting the pro-Trump mob, said she saw colleagues leading groups on “reconnaissance” tours of the Capitol the day before the riot.
Reuters, The New York Times