The U.S. Capitol Police — the law-enforcement agency charged with protecting the U.S. Capitol and top officials of Congress — is investigating threats made against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The investigation comes in the wake of Reid calling supporters of renegade rancher Cliven Bundy “domestic terrorists.”
It’s not clear, however, who is being investigated and whether the targets of that investigation are among the armed militia-type protesters who have gathered and camped at the Bundy ranch, since the Bureau of Land Management’s abortive attempt to round up Bundy cattle illegally grazing on federal land.
Reid is never the most popular member of Congress, even and perhaps especially in his home state of Nevada, where plenty of people have little nice to say about the state’s most powerful federal elected official in history. But threats against Reid appear to be a violation of 18 USC 115, if the threat is made to with “…intent to impede, intimidate, or interfere with such official, judge, or law enforcement officer while engaged in the performance of official duties, or with intent to retaliate against such official, judge, or law enforcement officer on account of the performance of official duties….”
The threat investigation is a sad reminder that modern politics is freighted with frustrated, angry people who are more than willing to let political disagreements escalate into potentially violent confrontations. (Look no further than the Bundy ranch for evidence; protesters came armed and repeatedly told the media they were willing to shoot it out with federal officers.) Although the Bundy situation is a simple fee dispute between a wayward rancher with nutty views about federal law and the Bureau of Land Management, their rhetoric suggests many of the would-be militia types see themselves on a modern day Lexington green.
Meanwhile, Rep. Steven Horsford has written to Sheriff Doug Gillespie (and been in contact with the FBI and the Interior Department) on behalf of Bunkerville residents, some of whom Horsford said “fear for their safety.”
According to Horsford’s letter, militia groups have set up “checkpoints,” and require people to prove their residency in order to pass and have established an “armed presence” around churches, schools and community locations. (At least one militia member tried to stop a news crew from 8NewsNow from driving on a county road.)
“We must respect individual constitutional liberties, but the residents of and visitors to Clark County should not be expected to live under the persistent watch of an armed militia,” Horsford wrote. “Their continual presence has made residents feel unsafe and maligned a quiet community’s peaceful reputation.”