After the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, Second Congressional District Rep. Angie Craig and many of her Democratic colleagues knew that they would likely need to step up their personal security over fears of another attack. Soon after the attack, she started receiving increasingly personal threats to her and her family, including several death threats.
“A man left a voicemail saying that he was gonna sneak into my house and get me after January 6th,” Craig said. “I was told I was going to die if I voted to impeach President Trump. And really, one of the most recent ones was very specific: ‘I’m going to light your ass up. I will demonstrate in front of your house. I will be at your kid’s school, reminding them that you are a puke.’”
Craig said that threats to her, her family and her office have about doubled in the last year, not just in Washington but in her home district as well. Her Minnesota district office received a bomb threat in August, a month that most of the Minnesota delegation spends at home during the summer recess.
Craig isn’t the only member of Minnesota’s delegation that has been receiving threats, though. Fifth District Rep. Ilhan Omar has been at the receiving end of hate from elected officials in addition to random strangers.
Overall, threats to some members of Congress and the Capitol itself have increased substantially since January 6, and in some cases they seem to be getting more violent.
Capitol Police respond to increasing number of threats
U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger told the Associated Press in an interview that he expects authorities will have to respond to close to 9,000 threats against members of Congress on the Capitol grounds this year.
“We have never had the level of threats against members of Congress that we’re seeing today,” Manger told the AP. “Clearly, we’ve got a bigger job in terms of the protection aspect of our responsibilities, we’ve got a bigger job than we used to.”
In 2016, there were 902 investigated threats against members of Congress. By 2018, the Capitol Police Chief at the time, Steven Sund, testified that there were 4,894 threats against members. In May of this year, the Capitol Police said in a statement that “there has been a 107% increase in threats against Members compared to 2020” and that the force handled “approximately 9,000 cases” in 2020. Over 4,100 cases had been reported during the first three months of 2021.
Over the last year, the Capitol building has had to be evacuated several times, and Capitol Police officers have dealt with imminent physical threats, including one from a 49-year-old man from North Carolina who parked his truck on Capitol grounds in an active bomb threat. The man had frequently made pro-Trump posts and uploaded videos from Trump’s “Million MAGA March” on his Facebook page.
The Capitol Police have an annual budget of about $460 million. The force consists of about 2,300 officers and civilian employees to patrol the Capitol grounds and the people inside the building, including all the lawmakers and staff.
Historically, only a few members of Congress in leadership positions have received full-time protective details from the Capitol Police, including the House and Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, the House Speaker and the House and Senate whips. Members without such titles have sometimes received added protection, but only in response to specific concerns.
A few weeks after the January 6 attack, though, more than 30 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to House leaders Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy asking to use their congressional allowances to increase their personal safety in their home districts. The members asked to use the funds to hire local law enforcement or other security personnel in their home districts.
Though threats are up overall, they haven’t been felt by all offices equally. For example, Sen. Tina Smith’s staff said that she has not experienced a significant increase in threats this year compared to past years. Sen. Amy Klobuchar did not provide information on threats to her office, citing safety concerns if that information were shared. Other members of the Minnesota congressional delegation did not respond to inquiries about changes in threats over the last year.
For Craig and Omar, the blame for the increase in threats against Congress rests squarely with their Republican colleagues, both for their violent rhetoric and for Republican leaders’ failure to condemn violent statements from members of the party.
“We must not mince words about what happened on January 6th: It was a violent attempt to overturn our elections and overthrow our democracy,” Omar said. “We also have seen a direct correlation in dangerous rhetoric from the previous president and his sympathizers to credible threats made against local, state, and federal public officials. I myself receive near-constant death threats, hundreds of which have been reported to the authorities.”
The “dangerous rhetoric” Omar referred to extends beyond the days before January 6. This September, Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert made public remarks in which she implied Omar, who is Muslim, is a terrorist. Amid a series of exchanges between the lawmakers about the remarks, Omar held a press conference during which she played a voicemail she had recently received that contained threats against her life following her fight with Boebert. The caller said, “You’re a fucking traitor. You will not live much longer, bitch.” Omar said her team receives many calls like this — “too many to count.”
When Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy refused to condemn Boebert’s remarks, Omar called him a “liar and a coward.” When asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper about McCarthy’s refusal to acknowledge Boebert’s attack, Omar said that “he doesn’t have the ability to condemn the kind of bigoted Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric that are being trafficked by a member of his conference.”
Like Omar, Rep. Angie Craig has grown more frustrated with the increased threats post-January 6 and the lack of response or action from her Republican counterparts.
“We cannot normalize death threats against elected officials as just part of the political process,” Craig said. “I mean, this increase in threats and security threats against members of Congress, all elected officials, and it even extends to our families, from time to time. We have to have people in both political parties who speak out vehemently against this type of behavior.”
When Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar posted an animated video that depicted him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in November, House Democrats called the video a “clear threat to a lawmaker’s life,” something that wouldn’t be tolerated in any other workplace. The House voted soon after to censure Gosar in a vote almost entirely along party lines. All four of Minnesota’s Republican representatives voted against censuring Gosar. (None of the Republican members of the Minnesota delegation responded to requests for comment about this vote or about the concerns raised by Omar and Craig about violent rhetoric from Republican officials.)
“I’ve stayed relatively silent about it, but you know, that direct threat by issuing a video of one member of Congress killing another, that kind of rhetoric only leads to the public believing that that kind of behavior is okay,” Craig said. “And just as a country, we can’t normalize this type of behavior. We need people on both sides of the aisle to speak up and let their leadership know that, you know, this is not okay. And this can’t continue as a nation.”
Craig said that she and her Democratic colleagues speak often about the threats they receive and the uptick in dangerous messages they’ve fielded since January 6. But, she said, conversations like this with Republicans are few and far between.
“I’ve got Republican people who support me, and honestly, I need them,” Craig said. “I need the base of the Republican Party who would disagree with me vehemently over policy issues to stand up and call out their own leadership and their own party. And I need the Minnesota delegation in our state to say this is not okay. We can’t normalize it. Don’t let anyone in your party or normalize this because, you know, where does it end?”