Powerful politicians, who have also used their powers to cut safety checks on migrants, are accusing Democrats of threatening their lives in an attempt to derail immigration policy
On 8 November, two separate incidents of reported attempted attacks on members of Congress by members of their staff had US officials on high alert and raising concerns over the dangers of retaliatory harassment. The following day, Donald Trump tweeted that the media and its “fake” tales of threats to public officials were total “FACT” and charged his critics with “harassment”.
On Friday, Republican congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona posted an image on Twitter of a cartoon knife with the caption: “If you come between Me and Trump’s agenda, I’ll get tough on you and I’ll kill you!” Gosar said he had not intended to threaten anyone.
The People v Steve Bannon: why Republicans are making a play for power | Jonathan Freedland Read more
The allegation of a coming attack was first made on Twitter by J Victor Reyes, a senior policy adviser on the House Democratic leadership. “You and your staff have a problem with @realDonaldTrump – that’s it,” Reyes wrote. “The remainder of Trump’s agenda is not part of your agenda. If you work on Trump’s agenda, get out of my office.”
Paul Gosar (@RepPaulGosar) A couple of congressmen sent me these pictures today that they received… pic.twitter.com/dq8QIbhYlj
He later clarified his point in a statement: “My concern is that members of my office are being targeted and intimidated by people trying to stop my work,” he said. “That has caused me to think about contacting security to address that issue and to put a range of measures in place to protect my staffers, myself and others who may be targeted.”
The backlash against Gosar’s threat was fast and furious. Dozens of prominent Democrats, including one of Gosar’s constituents, Cynthia Johnson, an Ohio-based human rights lawyer, tweeted: “I think we are all pretty familiar with how Republicans tried to intimidate minorities during the 2016 election and now apparently they’re trolling blacks and Latinos at offices of congressional Democrats.”
My concern is that members of my office are being targeted and intimidated by people trying to stop my work. That has caused me to think about contacting security to address that issue Paul Gosar
In his statement, Gosar claimed that this was part of a political ploy to disrupt his legislative agenda. “In the months leading up to my re-election, I am fully aware of numerous smear campaigns that Democrats are attempting to use as a distraction and to derail my agenda,” he said. “I am not deterred by this and intend to carry on working for the American people who elected me.”
A 24-year-old House staffer, Franklin Dunham, was shot twice in the stomach by one of Gosar’s staffers, according to a police report. The gunman also wounded another staff member and one of Gosar’s Democratic adversaries. Gosar declined to comment further when asked by the Guardian.
Now congressional Democrats are also facing allegations of targeted harassment. This time they came from two public officials. A staffer on Republican Rep. Devin Nunes’s House Intelligence Committee sent a string of tweets suggesting that others on the committee, including members of the committee’s staff, may be at risk of violence.
In one tweet, Nunes staffer Marc Veasey said he “wanted to meet at your home so we can help you with your issues. Or maybe we can murder you?” Other tweets said others on the committee staff are being harassed and have received death threats.
Veasey has also declined to discuss the ongoing Twitter thread, referring calls to Nunes spokesman Jack Langer, who said via email: “[Veasey] does not speak for Devin Nunes and hopes that the investigation, which has bipartisan support, continues, and that it has a positive result for the American people.”
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Bob Goodlatte, also accused Democrats of harassing staff. “I’ve been contacted by staff members of Democrats on the committee … and I also know some Republicans have received text messages, too,” he said. “The vast majority of these communications contain no threats.”
Goodlatte also said he intended to present an information request to Twitter and the Secret Service regarding the conduct of Nunes staff. He declined to comment