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Lawmakers describe more threats related to speaker race, Israel-Hamas conflict

The major events brought to the surface how often members receive threatening communications related to their votes and public statements

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., who says he has gotten four death threats related to the speaker vacancy, casts his vote Friday as House Freedom Caucus members, from left, Reps. Eli Crane, R-Ariz., Bob Good, R-Va., and Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., listen.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., who says he has gotten four death threats related to the speaker vacancy, casts his vote Friday as House Freedom Caucus members, from left, Reps. Eli Crane, R-Ariz., Bob Good, R-Va., and Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., listen. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Capitol Police have faced an increase in reports of threats against members of Congress and their families this month, at a time when the chief has already told lawmakers the department is stretched to capacity on those types of investigations.

Several lawmakers have gone public with threats sparked by tensions from both the Republican search for a speaker and the Israeli-Hamas conflict, which has prompted other lawmakers to point out how common those threats have become.

“I can show you where the people have made horrible accusations and things they were going to do to members of my family, and I couldn’t even get Capitol Hill police to respond to my phone calls about it,” Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., said Friday on CNN when discussing a voicemail left for another member’s wife.

The Capitol Police have proposed a “significant increase” in its fiscal 2024 budget for more special agents to vet such threats, but spending bills to do so are stuck in some of the same political undercurrents that led to the vacancy of the speaker spot.

The department has increased its briefings to Congress and has expressed concern about a potential lone-wolf-style attack on a lawmaker, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the briefings.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and other progressive lawmakers critical of Israel received a security briefing, NBC News reported Friday. Omar’s office shared with NBC the threats in the past 10 days that have been worse than ever.

One caller said, “I wish that someone would kill you and put you in hell.” Another said a group was preparing to poison Omar and her family, and added “they’re going to kill you and we get to watch on the internet.”

“Since assuming office, two men have plead guilty to threatening to kill me. This is very real,” Omar said in a statement. “I fear for my children and have to speak to them about remaining vigilant because you just never know.”

Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, D-N.Y., the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said several of his Democratic colleagues have gotten death threats in relation to the Israel-Hamas war. “All of it is horrible,” he said. “It’s concerning.”

Meeks said he has confidence in the Capitol Police to protect members around the Capitol. “But then you got to go home or some other places you never know,” Meeks said. “And so, you take these threats seriously.”

At least four Republican lawmakers reported threats after they did not vote for Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan to be speaker, on voicemails, emails and calls to their offices.

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., one of the most outspoken opponents of Jordan’s bid to be speaker, told NBC News Thursday that there were four death threats among the 20,000 messages sent to his congressional office about the speaker contest.

“And everybody in the conference is getting this,” Buck said. “Family members have been approached and threatened, all kinds of things are going on. There’s going to be some tension.”

The House sergeant-at-arms this week has advised members and staff to use the tunnels to travel between office buildings and the Capitol, according to a notice that went out to the congressional community.

Meeks says he’s always reminded of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who in 2011 was injured when a gunman opened fire at an event in her Arizona district.

More recent attacks on members, staff and family of lawmakers show how quickly something nefarious can happen. Paul Pelosi, the husband of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was attacked by a man wielding a hammer who sought to kidnap the former speaker; and former Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., was attacked as he was campaigning for governor of the Empire State.

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., one of the eight GOP members who voted to oust Kevin McCarthy from his speaker post, said Friday she has seen an uptick in threats against her since she took that vote.

“I had four last weekend. That was the same guy — four different threats. I had one the week before that. They’re calls, they’re emails,” Mace said.

She said she has been the target of waves of threats over the past three years as well, which led her to invest in security measures. She also carries a gun, she said.

“When I have stuck my neck out for things I believe in and on principle — it just happens all the time,” Mace said. “It’s a sad state of the divisions that we have in this country. Like no one should be attacked for their vote or their position. Period.”

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, made the first comments Wednesday that tied threats of physical violence against lawmakers to those who opposed Jordan.

Miller-Meeks posted on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, that after a vote against Jordan she “received credible death threats and a barrage of threatening calls. The proper authorities have been notified and my office is cooperating fully.”

Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., who voted against Jordan on Wednesday, said that shortly after that vote, “my family and I started receiving death-threats.”

Rep. Nick LaLota posted Wednesday an email he got after his vote against Jordan that said in part: “If I see your face, I will whip all the hair out of your [expletive] head you [expletive] scumbag.”

“My vote card belongs to me and the people of NY’s First Congressional District,” the New York Republican wrote on X. “I will not succumb to threats.”

Jordan on Wednesday condemned all threats against lawmakers. But Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and other Democrats put some of the blame on the Republican Party.

“The GOP’s refusal to renounce and denounce political violence on January 6th is now coming back to haunt their own members who voted against Jim Jordan for House speaker,” Raskin posted on X. “Several House Republicans have now received death threats—appalling but not shocking.”

The increase in threats coincides with heightened security on the Capitol complex Friday as they prepared for more possible protests related to the Israel-Hamas conflict. The department on Wednesday arrested more than 300 protestors calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, including at a demonstration inside a House office building.

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