Capitol Police investigated more threats against members of Congress and staff in 2023 than the previous year, a stark reminder of the potential dangers that members face while the agents tasked with vetting those threats are understaffed.
The 8,008 cases investigated in 2023, which includes direct threats and concerning statements, is up by more than 500 cases in 2022. But that’s still fewer than the 9,625 cases in 2021, the year of the attack on the Capitol, and the 8,613 cases in 2020.
The agency’s Threat Assessment Section has been inundated with cases. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger told lawmakers at a hearing last year that agents in that section carry an annual caseload of nearly 500.
“I am proud of our agents who are working around the clock and across the nation to keep up with a significant caseload to protect the Members of Congress and the Capitol Complex,” Manger said in a news release Thursday. “We continue to improve and enhance our investigative and protective responsibilities by focusing on security both here on Capitol Hill and in Member’s home districts.”
House Administration Chairman Bryan Steil, R-Wis., said there has been a “challenging security environment for a number of years” and it’s an issue they have to “remain vigilant” about.
Ranking member Joe Morelle, D-N.Y., said he is concerned about the volume of threats. “We’re concerned about any threat to a member of Congress, and I just think the size of the numbers indicates, understandably, why we’re taking this so seriously,” Morelle said.
Steil and Morelle, in conjunction with representatives from the House Sergeant-at-Arms Office and Capitol Police, brief their colleagues when security issues arise. The House sergeant-at-arms and Capitol Police have been working with members to coordinate more residential security and ensure local law enforcement presence at public events.
With the Democratic and Republican conventions approaching, along with a presidential election, the department could face another busy year in 2024. The Capitol Police attributed some of the high threat level to social media users and said decreasing violent political rhetoric will lower the threats.
“Members of Congress of both political parties receive a wide range of threats and concerning statements that are sent through the mail, email, telephone, and social media/the internet,” the agency news release stated.
Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., had her house vandalized three times and her car keyed twice over the past three years.
“It’s a problem. Many of us get threats all the time. I got a text threat last week,” Mace said. “It’s a very divisive world out there right now.”
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., attributed an increase in threats to the violent language promulgated by former President Donald Trump and “some of my colleagues on the Republican side here in the House.”
“These are people who disparage democracy, who lie, who engage in conspiracy theories, and it’s really frightening,” McGovern said.