Threats to Congress’ ranks top 2016 to­tal

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - KEVIN FREKING

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice have in­ves­ti­gated more threats to mem­bers of Congress in the first six months of the year than in all of 2016, ac­cord­ing to the chief law en­force­ment of­fi­cial for the House, as Ma­jor­ity Whip Steve Scalise re­mains hos­pi­tal­ized af­ter a gun­man opened fire at a baseball prac­tice nearly a month ago.

The num­bers were re­vealed in a memo Mon­day on the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion web­site as law­mak­ers seek the panel’s guid­ance on us­ing cam­paign funds to im­prove se­cu­rity at their res­i­dences. House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irv­ing pro­vided the num­bers to the com­mis­sion, say­ing they con­sti­tute a “new daily threat en­vi­ron­ment faced by mem­bers of Congress.”

In the first half of the year, Capi­tol Po­lice in­ves­ti­gated about 950 threat­en­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions to law­mak­ers. Last year, po­lice in­ves­ti­gated 902 such com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

“The in­creased use of so­cial me­dia has cre­ated a new av­enue for in­di­vid­u­als with ill in­tent to pub­lish threat­en­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rected to­ward mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives,” Irv­ing wrote to com­mis­sion Chair­man Steven Walther. “The anony­mous na­ture of these post­ings makes it par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing for the United States Capi­tol Po­lice, and it is im­per­a­tive that we do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to pro­tect our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives.” In a po­lit­i­cally po­lar­ized at­mos­phere, law­mak­ers have spo­ken about an in­creas­ing num­ber of threats of phys­i­cal vi­o­lence or death. Sev­eral dis­cussed it freely af­ter the shoot­ing last month griev­ously wounded Scalise. The Louisiana Repub­li­can re­mains in se­ri­ous con­di­tion in the in­ten­sive care unit of a Wash­ing­ton hos­pi­tal af­ter sev­eral surg­eries, in­clud­ing one for an in­fec­tion.

Scalise and four other peo­ple were in­jured June 14 when a gun­man opened fire on a Repub­li­can baseball prac­tice in nearby Alexan­dria, Va. U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice and other of­fi­cers re­turned fire and killed the gun­man. The ri­fle-wield­ing at­tacker had nursed griev­ances against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and the GOP.

The 51-year-old con­gress­man was struck in the hip and the bul­let tore into blood ves­sels, bones and in­ter­nal or­gans. Irv­ing men­tioned the shoot­ing, say­ing “this vit­riol has cul­mi­nated in the tragic events of June 14, 2017.”

The Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion is weigh­ing Irv­ing’s re­quest for guid­ance as to whether law­mak­ers can use cam­paign funds to pay for res­i­den­tial se­cu­rity sys­tems. The com­mis­sion will take the mat­ter up at a meet­ing Thurs­day. In prepa­ra­tion, the staff pre­pared two draft ad­vi­sory opin­ions — one agree­ing to Irv­ing’s re­quest and the other con­clud­ing that such spend­ing ab­sent a spe­cific threat to a law­maker is not al­lowed.

In years past, the com­mis­sion has al­lowed use of cam­paign funds for res­i­den­tial se­cu­rity sys­tems on a lim­ited, case-by-case ba­sis. In those three in­stances, the Capi­tol Po­lice had rec­om­mended the se­cu­rity up­grades. The com­mis­sion con­cluded that the threats wouldn’t have hap­pened had the law­mak­ers not been fed­eral of­fice hold­ers or can­di­dates.

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