WASHINGTON — Sen. Harry Reid said Tuesday that he has received “ugly, vile, vulgar” letters mailed to his home, nearly all of them mixing threats with passages from the Bible.
Reid did not say who sent the letters, which have triggered an investigation by the U.S. Capitol Police and reports that the security detail has been increased for the Nevada Democrat who serves as Senate majority leader.
Speaking with reporters, Reid paused and didn’t answer directly when asked whether the threats were tied to Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who has been in conflict with the Bureau of Land Management. Reid has called Bundy a “domestic terrorist” after he marshaled armed supporters this month to derail a government roundup of his cattle deemed to be trespassing on public land in rural Clark County.
“I don’t know who’s mad at me, but it’s a long list, I guess,” Reid said.
“Each day that goes by it’s hard for me to comprehend how ugly, vile, vulgar and threatening people are, sending letters to my home and making other threats,” Reid said.
“What also bothers me is virtually every one of these horrible things they send, they cite Scripture, something out of the Bible. Now you try that one on,” he said.
Reid was asked about Bundy, whose confrontation with the BLM occurred while Congress was in recess. He repeated his view that Bundy is openly violating the law and court orders and his cattle must be taken off the land.
Reid said he has spoken with Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director James Comey, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell “and others” about Bundy.
“They are going to move forward,” he said without providing detail. “We cannot have someone who openly violates the law.”
Now that the Senate has returned to session, some are calling for an examination into how the federal land agency conducted the attempted roundup that quickly turned into a tense standoff.
“I think there ought to be oversight into how they handled the situation,” Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said. “If you show up with dogs and tasers and sniper rifles and flak jackets, there was probably a better way to handle that.”
Heller said he was worried about possible repeat confrontations if the government next year declares the sage-grouse a threatened species, an action that could close off wide swaths of Nevada rangeland.
“I am very concerned we are going to have more episodes like that in the future with the listing of the sage hen, sage-grouse, saying they are not compatible with cattle and driving these cattlemen out of work,” he said.
Heller said Congress should remain on the sidelines, though, until the Bundy case is resolved. “I want to see how this plays out in the end,” Heller said. “This thing is far from over.”
One thing seems certain: Bundy will have no role to play in any action contemplated on Capitol Hill. The rancher has become radioactive after his comments on race reported this month.
Speaking with supporters on April 19, Bundy said he wondered whether “the Negro” would be “better off as slaves, picking cotton,” than collecting government payments.
“I would not want him in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol,” Heller said. “There is no place for him in the halls of the United States Congress.”
Reid on Tuesday defended the BLM, which is headed by Neil Kornze, a Nevadan from Elko who served as public land adviser on Reid’s staff before joining the agency in 2011 and becoming confirmed as director on April 8.
“I think the Bureau of Land Management did an outstanding job trying to enforce two valid federal court decrees to tell this man basically to get the cattle off the land,” Reid said. “He’s decimated large tracts of land he has no business being on, he has damaged riparian areas, he hasn’t paid taxes, hasn’t paid fees. What was the BLM supposed to do?”
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at STetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC.