The increase in threats to US lawmakers over the last two years has also extended to family members, according to federal law enforcement officials, but a lack of federal protection for families is frustrating some members of Congress.
After the attack on Paul Pelosi, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger told CNN in an interview on Friday that the threats against his own family included one that mentioned killing his young child.
But when he asked US Capitol Police for additional security, they essentially told him to “get in line,” Kinzinger said.
Like other lawmakers, Kinzinger’s security detail does not protect his family when he is not with them, and the lack of assistance provided by Capitol Police has meant his campaign would have to foot the bill for any additional security. “That usually ended up being private security,” he said.
Calls for violence against lawmakers online and elsewhere have referenced both elected officials and their families, according to sources familiar with the threat environment who told CNN that law enforcement agencies have been grappling with how to address those threats in the wake of the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
In the months following the January 6 insurrection, Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies worked to increase protection for members of Congress while they are in Washington, DC, and traveling back to their home districts.
However, the security detail for lawmakers, including Pelosi, does not protect their family members, including spouses, when the members of Congress are not with them, according to multiple sources. Some lawmakers have received additional security in their home districts from local police departments and private contractors.
The USCP declined to comment when asked Friday about security for the families of lawmakers.
A senior aide on Capitol Hill tells CNN that the Capitol Police is now assessing additional security options for the protection of families of congressional leadership.
Federal law enforcement agencies have consistently warned about the increasing threat of politically motivated violence after January 6, raising specific concerns about the likelihood that online calls for violence result in real-world attacks.
According to the most recent statistics, the Capitol Police tracked roughly 9,600 threats in 2021 against the people and places the department is charged with protecting. It’s unclear how many threats were made against family members.
Several lawmakers have sought additional protection from the Capitol Police after receiving threats to their families, but the agency largely lacks the resources and training to fill those requests, according to one source familiar with the matter.
Kinzinger, who sits on the House select committee investigating January 6, also told CNN that it was not lost on him that the intruder who broke into Pelosi’s residence overnight appeared to be looking for the House speaker – much like rioters who stormed the US Capitol in 2021.
CNN reported Friday that the intruder shouted “Where is Nancy?” prior to attacking her husband.
Pelosi was the target of several rioters who breached the Capitol on January 6. One Capitol rioter who has since pled guilty to charges stemming from their involvement in the attack, posted a video to social media that day where they also can be heard asking: “Where’s Nancy.”
Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room,” Kinzinger said the attack on Paul Pelosi “is the kind of stuff that every Republican needs to speak out on, just like every Democrat and Republican should speak out when Steve Scalise was shot.”
“But to the Republicans not speaking out now, this is going to be visited on our side – not that it should actually matter what side you’re on, but speak out now,” he added.
Asked whether he thinks lawmakers and midterm election candidates will universally condemn the attack, Kinzinger said he’s “afraid they’re not going to.”
“I am afraid that they will use this as an opportunity with the election around the corner to make some snide reference to something,” Kinzinger said. “We have to start seeing each other as humans again. It’s really disappointing.”