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Threats against members of Congress have more than doubled this year

A U.S. Capitol Police patrol car drives past the fence perimeter on the east side of the U.S. Capitol before President Joe Biden delivers his address to the joint session of Congress on Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Threats against federal lawmakers have more than doubled so far this year compared with last year, the United States Capitol Police said Friday.

The law enforcement agency tasked with defending Congress reported a 107% increase in threats against members of the legislative body compared with the same point in 2020.

“Provided the unique threat environment we currently live in, the Department is confident the number of cases will continue to increase,” the agency said in a press release posted online.

The report comes months after a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump overwhelmed the police department and stormed the Capitol in an effort to prevent Congress from confirming President Joe Biden‘s victory.

The Justice Department has estimated that about 800 individuals may have been involved in the Jan. 6 attack. More than 400 alleged rioters are now facing criminal charges, and arrests are continuing. Steven Sund, who led the police department at the time of the riot, resigned on Jan. 7.

Friday’s release is consistent with comments from lawmakers, who have said that their security is more at risk as a result of the political atmosphere.

In January, members of the House of Representatives sent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other congressional leaders a letter asking for broader authorization to use a congressional fund for security measures, citing increased risks.

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Several lawmakers who were supportive of impeaching Trump have also boosted their own spending on security since the Jan. 6 attack, financial disclosures show.

The police department has previously said that threats were on the rise.

In March, acting USCP Chief Yogananda Pittman told Congress that threats against lawmakers were up more than 90% in the first two months of the year. Between 2017 and 2020, she said, there was a 118.66% increase in threats and “directions of interest. ”

The Jan. 6 attack prompted the Capitol Police to ask Congress for more funding. The police department has asked for a $107 million increase in its 2022 budget compared with its fiscal year 2021 budget.

That ask reflects revisions to the budget request made after the riot. The original request, prior to Jan. 6, called for a $36 million increase in funding over 2021 levels.

In its press release, the police department continued its push for more funding. It said that it agreed with recommendations issued in an April report from the agency’s inspector general to increase its staff dedicated to threat assessment and to establish a stand-alone countersurveillance entity. Both proposals, the police department said, would “require resources and authorization.”

“In its report, the [inspector general] suggests the Department’s Threat Assessment Section be similar to the United States Secret Service (USSS). In 2020, the USSS, which has more than 100 agents and analysts, had approximately 8,000 cases. During the same time period, the USCP, which has just over 30 agents and analysts, had approximately 9,000 cases,” the department said.

The police department added, “The USCP agrees a stand-alone counter-surveillance unit would be valuable. However, in order to fully implement this recommendation, the Department would require additional resources for new employees, training, and vehicles as well as approval from Congressional stakeholders.”

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2021-05-07 15:12:27

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