Threats against lawmakers already higher than all of 2016

The U.S. Capitol Police has investigated close to 1,000 threats directed at lawmakers in the first half of this year, a top House official said in a letter made public Friday.

Paul Irving, the House sergeant at arms, stated that the Capitol Police looked into about 950 threatening messages aimed at members of the House “because of their profile as elected representatives or members of Congress.”

That’s already more than the approximately 902 threatening messages investigated by the Capitol Police in all of 2016.

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The increased number “constitutes the new daily threat environment faced by Member[s] of Congress,” Irving wrote in a letter dated June 21 to Federal Election Commission Chairman Steven Walther.

Irving provided the statistics as part of a request that the FEC issue guidance that would allow lawmakers to use campaign funds to pay for security systems in their homes.

The FEC has issued a handful of rulings on a case-by-case basis allowing members of Congress to use campaign money for home security, such as for former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head at a constituent event in 2011.

But House leaders have been reviewing how to give lawmakers more resources for their personal security in the wake of a shooting at the GOP baseball practice earlier this month.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThreats against lawmakers already higher than all of 2016 GOP lawmakers urge party leaders to cancel August recess Moderate House GOP express ‘concern’ over budget process MORE (R-Wis.) presented the idea to lawmakers last week that the FEC could issue a blanket guidance allowing lawmakers to use campaign funds for their personal security measures.

Irving’s letter formally made the request.

“It is my position that Members of the U.S. House of Representatives require a residential security system due to the threat environment,” Irving wrote.

A gunman shot four people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), a staffer for Rep. Roger WilliamsRoger WilliamsThreats against lawmakers already higher than all of 2016 House approves extra funding for lawmaker security GOP baseball manager gives emotional speech before delivering trophy to Scalise’s office MORE (R-Texas), a Tyson Food lobbyist and a member of Scalise’s Capitol Police security detail, at the baseball practice.

Scalise came close to death and is still recovering at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Earlier this week, the House passed a measure granting lawmakers an additional $25,000 for their annual office budgets to spend for security while conducting official business. 

The taxpayer funds could be used to secure lawmakers’ district offices or public events. Members cannot use them to secure their personal residences.

A number of lawmakers have gotten death threats this year, including Reps. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Tom Garrett (R-Va.), from people angry about the GOP’s healthcare bill and President Trump.

Rep. Al GreenAl GreenThreats against lawmakers already higher than all of 2016 Congressional Black Caucus calls on Trump administration to invest in prosecuting hate crimes Scalise ally, a Dem, leads fight to boost lawmaker security MORE (D-Texas), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, also received lynching threats after he called for Trump’s impeachment.