Several members of Congress wrote to House leadership on Thursday, asking for the flexibility and funds to hire armed guards and upgrade security measures in their districts as they are terrified of threats against them.
‘Reflecting the tense and troubling times we live in, Members of Congress have reported receiving a significant uptick in threats of violence and even death,’ states the letter, a copy of which was obtained by DailyMail.com.
The lawmakers ask for greater flexibility to use their taxpayer-funded office expenses for security measures at their homes – which would presumably include items such as bullet proof glass and alarms – in addition for personal guards for the lawmakers when they are in their districts. They also want their addresses kept a secret.
The two-page letter argues that the internet makes information about lawmakers’ lives much more accessible, including home addresses, photos, personal details about lawmakers’ families, and real-time information on lawmaker attendance at events – which puts them at greater risk.
It asks for more funding to their Member Representational Allowance – the taxpayer money lawmakers receive to run their offices – and for greater flexibility on how that money can be spent on security matters, specifically when they are home.
They point out they have protection at the Capitol but not when they are back in their districts – which is where they spend the majority of their time.
‘While the U.S. Capitol is protected by the United States Capitol Police with the support of strong security measures, including vehicle barriers and metal detectors, most Members spend the majority of their time in their Congressional Districts where security is often sparse,’ the lawmakers note.
Specifically they ask for:
- 1) Greater flexibility for the use of MRA funds for security purposes, especially in Members’ Districts. These steps could include allowing MRA funds to directly reimburse additional capital security upgrades at District Offices; the hiring of local law enforcement or other security while Members are in their Districts; and the purchase of security items that would protect members in soft target locations, including their homes.
- 2) Concerted efforts to keep Members ‘personal information, such as their home addresses, private and off of publicly accessible websites and databases; Members should have legal recourse available if their personal address is published without permission.
- 3) Regular, bipartisan security briefings for Members on the actions that U.S. Capitol Police and the House Sergeant at Arms are taking to keep Members, their families, and staff safe at the Capitol and in their Districts.
- 4) Conduct a full outside, independent review with recommendations of security protocols for Members both at the Capitol and in their Districts; provide more specific guidelines on the best security practices Members should take to ensure the safety of themselves, their families, and staff members.
- 5) Provide designated supplemental funds to this year’s MRA to address additional security needs, given the increased threat level.
‘Protecting Members in their District is much harder because local law enforcement agencies are stretched and limited, and often don’t have sufficient staffing or money to provide regular protection to Members. Except for Leadership, Members do not have security details protecting them,’ the letter notes.
The letter was authored by Democratic Representatives Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Dean Phillips of Minnesota. They were joined by 29 other Democrats and one Republican in their request to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, and the chairwoman and ranking member of the House Administration Committee, which oversees the lawmakers’ office accounts and spending.
Several members of Congress wrote to House leadership, asking permission to hire armed guards and upgrade security measures in their districts out of fear of threats
Democratic Representative Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey led the effort by lawmakers to get increased security in their home districts
The taxpayer funds allocated to lawmakers to use in their work are strictly governed in terms of how the money can be spent. The rules are outlined in the Members’ Handbook and overseen by the Committee on House Administration.
Current rules allow for upgrades to office space in the lawmakers’ home district – such as bullet proof glass in the windows and alarm systems. It also allows for armed guards at their district offices and at official events.
But the lawmakers are asking for that to be expanded to full time security when they are their private homes or just generally out in public, when they may be recognized or targeted.
Security training is a reimbursable expense as are some personal security items. ‘The purchase of a bulletproof vest for the Member is a reimbursable expense,’ the handbook notes.
But tensions have increased among lawmakers and staff, who are still suffering the effects of January 6th MAGA riot, where pro-Trump protesters attacked the Capitol, leaving five people dead and a trail of destruction throughout the building.
The rioters interrupted the certification of the presidential election, causing lawmakers to be evacuated from the House and Senate floor. They were held in secure locations in the Capitol complex under the situation was under control.
And the threat hasn’t faded.
One House staffer who works for a Republican House member who was against the election certification told Politico their office has received multiple calls from constituents who say the rioters didn’t inflict enough damage and that there should’ve been more people storming the Capitol.
Additionally, a California man was arrested for sending threatening text messages to the brother of Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York on the day of the riot.
‘Your brother is putting your entire family at risk with his lies and other words,’ one of the messages read. ‘We are armed and nearby your house. You had better have a word with him. We are not far from his either.’
The messages included photos of Jeffries’ home in New York.
Jeffries told MSNBC: ‘This is something that unfolded on January 6th, directed at a family member of mine. This individual apparently had secured a phone number, secured an address, made it appear as though they were prepared to proceed violently.’
Members of Congress have been targeted at home before.
In January 2011, then Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head in an assassination attempt just outside of Tucson during an event with constituents. She resigned from Congress during her recovering and later regained much of her ability to walk, speak, read, and write.
Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York was a target of threatening messages that included photos of his home
In January 2011, then Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head in an assassination attempt just outside of Tucson; she returned to Congress in January 2012 for the State of the Union address (above) where she received a hug from then-President Barack Obama and a standing ovation from her fellow lawmakers
Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez revealed she ‘had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die’ during the riot
As part of the investigation into the January 6th riot, one man was arrested for specifically targeting Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York in his social media posts surrounding the event.
‘Assassinate AOC,’ read one of his posts.
After the riot, Ocasio-Cortez spoke of the threat she faced in an Instagram Live conversation, saying she ‘had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die.’
She did not get more specific. She also said she did not shelter with her fellow lawmakers that day as she feared some of them might reveal her location to the rioters.
‘I didn’t even feel safe going to that extraction point because there were QAnon and white supremacist members of Congress who I felt would disclose my location and create opportunities to allow me to be hurt,’ she said, adding that she ‘didn’t feel safe around other members of Congress.’
‘It is not an exaggeration to say that many, many members of the House were nearly assassinated,’ said Ocasio-Cortez.
‘It’s just not an exaggeration to say that at all. We were very lucky that things happened within certain minutes. That allowed members to escape the gap, the House floor unharmed.
‘But many of us merely narrowly escaped death. And it’s also extremely traumatizing,’ she noted.
A subsequent investigation of the January 6th riot revealed how at risk the lawmakers were as several pro-Trump groups launched a coordinate effort to track them down
The MAGA rioters tried to breach the House floor on January 6th were several lawmakers were sheltering as the Capitol was stormed
National Guard units guard the Capitol building but lawmakers say they need more protection when they are back home in their districts
A subsequent investigation of the January 6th riot revealed how at risk the lawmakers were as several pro-Trump groups launched a coordinate effort to track them down in the day’s chaos.
Court documents show the rioters on January 6th communicated in real time as they breached the Capitol building.
The FBI released messages it had obtained in its investigation that showed the rioters were planning to make ‘citizens’ arrest’ of the lawmakers and were tracing their where abouts on that day, including the fact the lawmakers were being taken out of the Capitol via an underground tunnel beneath the complex.
‘All legislators are down in the Tunnels 3floors down,’ read one message. Another read: ‘All members are in the tunnels under capital seal them in. Turn on gas.’
Additional evidence showed members of the far-right Oath Keepers had trained for the incursion and were interested in members of Congress.
Federal investigators recovered recordings made using the Zello cellphone app, which acts like a walkie-talkie, in which the rioters were communicating on January 6th.
‘We have a good group,’ one said during the riot. ‘We have about 30-40 of us. We are sticking together and sticking to the plan.’
Another said: ‘You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly; we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud.’
Thus far, the FBI has identified more than 400 suspects in the riot and said more than 150 criminal cases have been filed.