The Associated Press published a striking story Tuesday morning, that should give every American pause; the rising incidents of threats to the lives of our United States elected officials.
Threats to Senate and Congressional leaders have more than doubled this year according to the U.S. Capitol Police. Many members say they fear for their personal safety more than they did before the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. That includes legislative members who have served in our military and who have seen active duty in war zones.
The threats coincide with a recent national threat level warning by the Dept. of Homeland Security warning of a heightened threat of domestic terrorism from grievance-filled, right-wing extremists. This is being fed by the rhetoric of former president Donald Trump who continues to insist on his big lie that he somehow won the 2020 election. Which he did not.
This is matched by an alarming silence from Republican party leadership. Although they were also in the U.S. Capitol and experienced the Jan. 6 insurrection, their allegiance to Trumpism (a loop completed this week when they removed Representative Liz Cheney from the number three party role in the House because she refuses to swallow the big lie) appears to be complete.
But this silence also appears to give tacit approval to those who think it’s their right to threaten those who don’t believe the big lie. Coupled with the signal given by Republican leadership in Congress that they won’t go along with the bipartisan-drafted Special Commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol, that is expected to be voted on today, and it would seem to be a recipe for grievance-filled domestic violence.
Colorado Rep. Jason Crow, is a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned 15 years ago. He says that after the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, he’s scanning his surroundings continuously. This was his habit when he first returned from war zones, but now he’s doing this while serving in the Capitol.
“There’s no doubt that members are on edge right now,” said Crow, and the threats from outside “are unfortunately the reality of congressional life.”
Along with several other members of Congress, Crow was trapped in the upper gallery of the U.S. House on Jan. 6 while a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters tried to beat down the doors to the chamber. Their authoritarian goal on display for all of America to see; to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.
Legislators say that never would they have conceived of their lives being threatened within the halls of the Capitol. When out and about in their districts the danger has already been a given for years; the attack on Representative Gabby Gifford while in her Arizona district in 2011 was though rare, back then. But now it serves as only one example of a growing threat.
Like almost every other member of Congress, Crow says his office has received threats against his life. This week, the House will vote on a broad $1.9 billion spending bill to up Capitol security, something that may go a ways toward resolving some of the trauma that Capitol Hill staffers and legislators still feel.
“This was an armed assault on our democracy, and I’m a witness — I’m a victim and a witness to it,” says New Hampshire Rep. Annie Kuster. She says she thought she was going to die before officers cleared the hallways and hustled her and others out. Kuster has received treatment for post-traumatic stress after she was also trapped in the House gallery that day and heard rioters trying to break through the doors close to where she was hiding.
“I think we need a full investigation with a Jan. 6th commission, and I believe that the Capitol Police who saved our lives that day deserve more support,” she says. (the odds of that happening are growing dim, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came out against it earlier this week.)
Democrats — and a majority of shocked Americans — attest to experiencing and watching the attack on the Capitol in real time. They, and we, saw Trump-motivated supporters beat officers with flagpoles and other weapons, smashed in windows and doors, break into the House and Senate, and announce that they were hunting for congressional leaders and Vice President Pence to hang them.
Now Republican leadership seems to have gotten amnesia, downplaying the severity of the insurrection, portraying the rioters who brutally beat officers with flagpoles and other weapons and broke into the Capitol through windows and doors as peaceful patriots.
While the day of the insurrection Kevin McCarthy was heard on the phone with then-President Trump telling him to call off his crowd, this week he’s saying that there wasn’t ever any threat to our legislators.
If the American public buys that next “big lie”, then whatever happens will be simply the next chapter in this unnerving saga. In the meantime, there is unease among our elected officials. Some are being targeted, not just by zealots outside Congress, but they are being targeted by their fellow representatives.
Such was the case in the past week when Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene — she of the QAnon, Trump cult, right wing branch of Republicans — has accosted a variety of people, verbally; including fellow GOP Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler last Saturday for “turning on the Republican Party” and supporting Rep. Liz Cheney. Last week she stalked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and taunted her.
The Republican party has tended to be dismissive of concerns. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell on Monday condemned the conspiracy theories Greene has espoused as “loony lies” and “cancer for the Republican party”.
Joey Bunch of Colorado Politics has questioned also whether Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who’s made gun-toting a political statement, is a danger to Democrats.