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House Oversight Committee asks Federal Protective Services how it is protecting federal employees given uptick in threats


By Annie Grayer and Zachary Cohen, CNN

The House Oversight Committee is asking the Federal Protective Services, which provides security to approximately 9,000 federal facilities, for information about how it is protecting federal employees in light of the increase in threats against its workforce.

The uptick in threats follows the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, and Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat and subcommittee chairman, lay out in a letter to Federal Protective Service Director L. Eric Patterson their belief that the rhetoric from Republican leaders has contributed to a sharp increase in threats to federal employees nationwide.

“We are alarmed that leaders in the Republican Party have promoted false conspiracy theories and fueled violent threats against federal workers, putting the lives of law enforcement officials and other patriotic public servants at risk,” Maloney and Lynch write.

Following the search of Mar-a-Lago, Maloney and Lynch say that Trump and Republican members of Congress “have made reckless statements demonizing federal law enforcement officers and even hinting at possible violence.”

The letter cites a recent speech from Trump where he called the Justice Department and FBI “vicious monsters” and cautioned that the criminal investigation being conducted over the removal of classified documents to Mar-a-Lago “is going to produce a backlash the likes of which nobody has ever seen before.” The letter also points to an August interview Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina did on Fox News where he said there would be “riots in the streets” if Trump were prosecuted in this case.

Right wing Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona posted on Twitter shortly after the search, “we must destroy the FBI.”

“This flood of disinformation and violent threats against federal employees has already led to at least one death. Last month, dangerous rhetoric against the FBI in the wake of the Mar-a-Lago search led to attacks against federal law enforcement, including an FBI Field Office in Cincinnati, Ohio,” Maloney and Lynch write. They add that in the days after Mar-a-Lago was searched, FPS reportedly warned of a “spike in expressed social media threats against the FBI and to a lesser extent, other government and law enforcement agencies.”

Separately, the letter also references examples of top Republicans suggesting that the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, which will lead to additional funding for the Internal Revenue Service, will be harmful to Americans.

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who chairs Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, claimed in an August news release that the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act would lead to 87,000 new IRS agents who would be “mostly armed” to “create an IRS super-police force” that is willing to “kill” their “fellow hardworking Americans.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote on Twitter, “Democrats’ new army of 87,000 IRS agents will be coming for you.” Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said on Fox News that the new funding would provide a strike force that “goes in with AK-15s [sic] already loaded, all ready to shoot some small-business person in Iowa.”

CNN has reported that the funding would help support the work of the IRS — including but not limited to audits — and in turn, is expected to bring in more federal tax revenue to help offset the cost of the Democrats’ plan to lower prescription drug costs and combat climate change. The agency’s budget had shrunk by more than 15% over the last decade. As a result, staffing levels and audit rates have been declining for years, which became even more apparent to taxpayers during the Covid-19 pandemic when it could not keep up with filings.

Democrats and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump — have said repeatedly that the intent is not to target the middle class but instead focus on making sure wealthy tax cheats comply with the law. It’s ultimately up to the IRS how the money is used.

On August 23, 2022, the letter states, Rettig reportedly warned IRS staff of “an abundance of misinformation and false social media postings” about implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, which have included “threats directed at the IRS and its employees.” As a result, Rettig said the IRS would undertake a physical security risk assessment for IRS’s 600 facilities.

Other federal agencies have also warned employees about an uptick in threats from the National Archives and Records Administration, to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, and even the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We fully support the First Amendment rights of all Americans to share their opinions and engage in spirited debate about U.S. government actions, but threats of violence and incitements to violence are illegal and dangerous,” Maloney and Lynch write.

Maloney and Lynch ask Patterson what steps Federal Protective Services has taken already and raise their concerns that the financial resources available to FPS is not sufficient to address the current threat environment. Currently, FPS is funded through a Basic Security Fee paid for by federal agencies out of their congressionally appropriated funds.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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