WASHINGTON (AP) — More money is needed to protect lawmakers from threats of violence coming from an “enemy” within Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday, a startling acknowledgment of how internal tensions over safety have escalated since this month’s Capitol attack by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
The California Democrat’s remarks came as the acting chief of the Capitol Police said separately that “vast improvements” are needed to protect the Capitol and adjacent office buildings, including permanent fencing. Such barricades have ringed the complex since the deadly Jan. 6 riot, but many lawmakers have long resisted giving the nation’s symbol of democracy the look of a besieged compound.
Pelosi told reporters she thinks Congress will need to provide more money “for more security for members, when the enemy is within the House of Representatives, a threat that members are concerned about.”
Asked to clarify what she meant, Pelosi said, “It means that we have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress.”
Pelosi’s remarks underscored how anxiety about security has remained high in Congress since Trump supporters’ Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, which led to five deaths. Lawmakers, including some who voted for this month’s House impeachment of Trump, have reported receiving threats.
The apprehension has taken on clear partisan undertones. Some Republicans have loudly objected to having to pass through newly installed metal detectors before they enter the House chamber, while Pelosi has proposed fining lawmakers who bypass the devices.
Pelosi did not say whom she meant by her reference to an “enemy” within the House, and a spokesperson provided no examples when asked.
But first-term Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has liked Facebook posts that advocated for violence against Democrats and the FBI. One post suggested shooting Pelosi in the head.
Asked to comment, Greene sent a written statement accusing Democrats and journalists of attacking her because she is “a threat to their goal of Socialism” and supports Trump and conservative values. “They want to take me out because I represent the people. And they absolutely hate it,“ she said.
Earlier this month, the HuffPost website reported that Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., set off a newly installed metal detector while trying to enter the House chamber and was found to be carrying a concealed gun. Other Republicans have also talked about carrying firearms, which lawmakers are permitted to do, though not on the House or Senate floors.
Since the attack, the Capitol grounds have been surrounded by barrier fences and patrolled by National Guard troops. Yogananda D. Pittman, acting chief of the Capitol Police, said in a statement after Pelosi spoke that, based on security assessments by her agency and others, she wants some changes to be lasting.
“In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol,” said Pittman, whose agency provides security for Congress.
Pelosi said she was meeting Thursday with retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who is leading a security review of the Capitol.
Pelosi said he was examining ways to protect lawmakers “in terms of their service here, their service home, their transportation in between.” Lawmakers have already been told they can tap accounts they use for office expenses for some security steps.
Prosecutors have charged more than 200 people for their roles in the riot, and others have been arrested after posting threats against members of Congress.
The public is barred from carrying firearms on Capitol grounds. Members of Congress can keep guns in their offices or transport them on the campus if they’re unloaded and securely wrapped.
On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletinwarning of the possibility of more violence from people motivated by antigovernment sentiment after President Joe Biden’s election. The department did not cite any specific plots.
A Senate trial on whether to punish Trump is set to begin next month, following his House impeachment on a charge of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol.
Trump made incendiary remarks to a throng of supporters that day, urging them to march to the building. Lawmakers at the time were formally certifying Biden’s election victory, which Trump has repeatedly and falsely attributed to fraud.