One menacing call after another: Threats against lawmakers surge

Washington Updated: Feb 10, 2022, 03:23 PM(IST)

(File photo)  Jacob Anthony Chansley, aka QAnon Shaman (C) with other Trump supporters at US Capitol Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The threats have come in almost every conceivable combination: Republicans threatening Democrats, Democrats threatening Republicans, Republicans threatening Republicans.

Early one morning in November 2019, Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., received a profanity-laden voice mail message at his office in which the caller identified himself as a trained sharpshooter and said he wanted to blow the congressman’s head off.

Two years earlier, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., received a similar voice mail message from an irate man who falsely accused her of threatening President Donald Trump’s life. “If you do it again, you’re dead,” he said, punctuating the statement with expletives and a racial epithet against Waters, who is Black.

The cases were part of a New York Times review of more than 75 indictments of people charged with threatening lawmakers since 2016. The flurry of cases shed light on a chilling trend: In recent years, and particularly since the beginning of Trump’s presidency, a growing number of Americans have taken ideological grievance and political outrage to a new level, lodging concrete threats of violence against members of Congress.

The threats have come in almost every conceivable combination: Republicans threatening Democrats, Democrats threatening Republicans, Republicans threatening Republicans. Many of them, the review showed, were fueled by forces that have long dominated politics, including deep partisan divisions and a media landscape that stokes resentment.

But they surged during Trump’s time in office and in its aftermath, as the former president’s own violent language fueled a mainstreaming of menacing political speech and lawmakers used charged words and imagery to describe the stakes of the political moment. Far-right members of Congress have hinted that their followers should be prepared to take up arms and fight to save the country.

Overall, threats against members of Congress reached a record high of 9,600 last year, according to data provided by the Capitol Police, double the previous year’s total. In the first three months of 2021 alone, the Capitol Police fielded more than 4,100 threats against lawmakers in the House and Senate.

“We’re barely keeping our head above water for those investigations,” J. Thomas Manger, the Capitol Police chief, testified last month. “We’re going to have to nearly double the number of agents who work those threat cases.”

Read in App