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Pelosi says part of Capitol Hill security issue is 'the enemy is within the House of Representatives'

Posted January 28, 2021 9:37 a.m. EST
Updated January 28, 2021 1:03 p.m. EST

Pelosi says part of Capitol Hill security issue is 'the enemy is within the House of Representatives'

— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday that she's committed to addressing the concerns of her colleagues over security but said that effort is hampered because "the enemy is within the House of Representatives," referencing the rhetoric and behavior of some Republican members of Congress.

Pelosi was asked about how members are concerned for their own security in the wake of the Capitol attack and violent rhetoric from other members, following a letter more than 30 lawmakers signed asking for more flexibility regarding the use of congressional allowance for personal security in their home districts and other security related requests. Pelosi also cited a security review currently being conducted by retired Lt. General Russel Honoré.

"Today when I meet with General Honoré he is looking at members here, members at home and in between," Pelosi said at her weekly news conference. "So we want to have a scientific approach to how we protect members. I do believe and I have said this all along we will probably need a supplemental for more security for members when the enemy is within the House of Representatives, a threat that members are concerned about in addition to what is happening outside."

When pressed by reporters about what she meant by that comment, 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 did not clarify which lawmakers she was referencing. US Capitol Police had investigated an incident in which a Republican lawmaker was stopped from bringing a concealed gun onto the House floor last week, sources told CNN, the first time a member of Congress has been discovered with a firearm by the metal detectors now set up outside the legislative chamber.

In response to the letter requesting additional resources and flexibility for security, Pelosi said Thursday the concerns in a letter from lawmakers requesting more flexibility for using their congressional allowances has already been addressed.

"First of all, I appreciate the letter from the members but most of the questions, items on the list, have already been done," she said. "Perhaps they were not aware, and I take responsibility for them not being aware."

Her remarks come after more than 30 House members sent a letter to Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday requesting more flexibility for using their congressional allowances toward helping their personal safety by hiring local law enforcement or other security personnel for their home district offices.

"While the U.S. Capitol is protected by the United States Capitol Police with the support of strong security measures, including vehicle barriers and metal detectors, most Members spend the majority of their time in their Congressional Districts where security is often sparse," they wrote in the letter. "Protecting Members in their District is much harder because local law enforcement agencies are stretched and limited, and often don't have sufficient staffing or money to provide regular protection to Members. Except for Leadership, Members do not have security details protecting them."

Thursday's letter took issue with existing rules regarding the rules governing member allowance use, describing the protocols as "constrictive and anachronistic, set in a time before the current."

CBS News first reported the letter.

The request is the latest development in a string of reactions to the deadly Capitol Hill riot on January 6 that has shaken lawmakers and their staff. As threats continue to mount against members of Congress, concern is growing about the safety of some lawmakers when they travel outside Washington and the security bubble it provides, multiple sources told CNN earlier this week.

The letter was written by Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Dean Phillips of Minnesota and addressed to Pelosi, McCarthy, and the chairwoman and ranking Republican member of the House Administration Committee, Reps. Zoe Lofgren of California and Rodney Davis of Illinois. While the list was mostly signed by Democrats, one Republican signed onto the letter — Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan.

This comes after the Committee on House Administration sent a letter to members earlier this month reminding them of various options they had for security-related expenses "in light of the tragic events related to the seditious breach of the Capitol."

The January 11 letter circulated to members reminded them that in their districts, they can get reimbursed for having security at a district event or outside district offices. The letter instructed members that the House Sergeant at Arms will provide "certain security enhancements" for district offices and that a bullet proof vest and security training are also considered reimbursable expenses.

The acting head of the US Capitol Police told congressional members during a closed-door briefing Tuesday that the "department failed to meet its own high standards" on January 6 when a crowd of pro-Trump rioters overran the Capitol building. Acting US Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman called the insurrection a "terrorist attack" and offered her "sincerest apologies on behalf of the department," according to her prepared remarks during a briefing for lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee with a number of agencies that had a role in security on January 6.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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