For the first time in modern American history, the possibility of a peaceful transfer of power is in doubt. Extremists swarmed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, and at least some of them intended to hunt down and kill elected officials. During their riot, they left bloodstains on the inauguration grandstands.
Now, in the final hours of the Trump presidency, security forces have turned Washington, D.C., into a fortified encampment in an attempt to prevent further violence. The transformation of the U.S. Capitol into a Baghdad-style Green Zone is unlike anything Washington has seen since 9/11. Joe Biden, already physically isolated by COVID-19, will be further distanced from the American people, who have traditionally crowded onto the National Mall by the hundreds of thousands to witness a presidential swearing-in.
The Secret Service is facing a challenge the likes of which it has never experienced.
More than 130 staffers tested positive for COVID-19 after agents on its protective details were forced to attend Trump rallies and put themselves in the splash zone of a highly infectious president. During the Capitol siege, Secret Service officers rushed Pence—the target of would-be assassins, according to prosecutors—to his office near the Senate floor, just steps ahead of the mob. Now the service must adjust to a world where white-supremacist or restorationist violence is expected, where mobs can suddenly breach perimeters, where drone technology is cheap and therefore easily available, and where members of the military and law enforcement are potential insider threats.