More money is needed to protect Congress from an “enemy” within, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, a startling acknowledgement of how tensions over safety have escalated since supporters of former President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol. (Jan. 28)
WASHINGTON – A group of 32 lawmakers, including a Republican who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, sent a letter to House leaders asking for additional security measures to protect themselves, their families and staff after the attack at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month and a “significant uptick in threats.”
The letter, led by Reps. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., and Dean Phillips, D-Minn., was sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., along with the two lawmakers who head the House Administration Committee, Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Rodney Davis, R-Ill.
The group of lawmakers are asking for both more money for security and greater flexibility in the allowances they’re given to operate their offices so they can beef up precautions for their safety. They also ask to bolster efforts to keep their personal information and home addresses private, along with a briefing with top policing officials at the Capitol and a review of security practices for lawmakers, their families and staff.
Threats against lawmakers in Congress have prompted the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal law enforcement to request that thousands of National Guard troops remain in the nation’s capital until mid-March. (Jan. 25)
In the letter, the lawmakers note that they don’t have security details protecting them and while the U.S. Capitol is currently under an intense lockdown, their offices back home are not.
“Most Members spend the majority of their time in their Congressional Districts where security is often sparse,” the lawmakers write. “Protecting Members in their District is much harder because local law enforcement agencies are stretched and limited, and often don’t have sufficient staffing or money to provide regular protection to Members.”
The letter notes members of Congress “have reported receiving a significant uptick in threats of violence and even death” and points out a rise over the years, from 902 threats investigated by authorities in 2016 to nearly 5,000 in 2018.
The group of lawmakers also asked for both a rise in the amount and greater flexibility in spending their Members’ Representational Allowances, also known as MRAs. The funds offer lawmakers a budget for operating their offices and currently allows them to purchase some security equipment, such as bulletproof vests, but the lawmakers argue the funds should be able to be used to beef up security at their homes and district offices, places they call “soft target locations.”
The letter was signed by an assortment of House Democrats who represent districts across the country. The only Republican to sign on was Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. Upton was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump and is now facing intense backlash back home, including the Allegan County Republican Party censuring him over his vote.
Pelosi, earlier Thursday in a news conference, noted that many of the concerns from lawmakers on their security had been dealt with but said more was being considered.
“We want to have a scientific approach to how we protect Members,” Pelosi said. “I do believe, and I have said this all along, that we will probably need a supplemental for more security for Members when the enemy is within the House of Representatives.”
Pelosi noted while she backed more funds for security, she was not supportive of lawmakers using funds in their MRA for such issues.
“They shouldn’t have to because that money is there for them to meet the needs of their constituents,” she explained.
Federal law enforcement officials have been examining threats aimed at lawmakers ahead of Trump’s second impeachment trial is readying to begin, including chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside the U.S. Capitol, an official told The Associated Press.
The threats, and concerns that armed protesters could return to sack the Capitol again, prompted the Capitol Police and other federal law enforcement to insist thousands of National Guard troops remain in Washington as the Senate moves forward with Trump’s trial, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Similar to those intercepted by investigators before Biden’s inauguration, the threats law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility, said the official, who had been briefed on the matter.
Contributing: Associated Press
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