The attack on Nancy Pelosi's husband reveals gaps in lawmakers' security
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Lawmakers and election officials are facing threats after the attack on Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul Pelosi, in their San Francisco home.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The attack has exposed some of the shortcomings of the security around lawmakers. The question of who should be protected and how is being talked about on Capitol Hill and across the country as law enforcement officials warn of threats to political candidates and election workers.
INSKEEP: Let's talk this through with Washington Post congressional reporter Marianna Sotomayor.
Thanks for being here. Good morning.
MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR: Thanks for having me.
INSKEEP: Well, just what are the - what's the baseline here? What kind of protection is in place for lawmakers as they move around the country, talk with crowds, try to do their jobs?
SOTOMAYOR: Well, it's pretty different when you're looking at leadership in both parties and your rank-and-file members. Leadership constantly has a security presence, a number of officers who are walking with them everywhere they go, including within the Capitol itself. They have security back home, but those kinds of things do not exist for rank-and-file members. Typically, it's up to the lawmakers themselves to request money, guidance from Capitol Police to be able to secure their properties, secure even their own district offices, to make sure that they stay safe in this day and age.
INSKEEP: I understand that Capitol security would naturally follow the speaker of the House and not necessarily her family, but it was her family and it was her house. I guess there were security cameras, right? Did the Capitol Police take any responsibility or effort to keep that home secure when she was not there?
SOTOMAYOR: Well, yesterday, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger, in a pretty rare statement, actually noted that that attack was just an example of the everyday things that Capitol Police have to deal with. So, yes, they can monitor the security cameras outside of the home, but they were not physically present. We know that in the days after January 6, for significant number of time, there tended to be cop cars, usually from San Francisco district police that were actively outside of the home. But that was not the case a week ago. And in that same statement, Manger said that this is an example of why they need more resources. Capitol Police, especially since January 6, have seen a number of retirements and have not been able to recuperate the numbers that they really do need to be able to protect all lawmakers on and off Capitol Hill.
INSKEEP: I research Abraham Lincoln. That's something that I write about. And there is a story in which a friend of Abraham Lincoln's sees him when he's president walking through Washington with no security. And he says, I'm worried about your security. And Lincoln essentially says, it's pointless. Adding security would be like putting up one fence rail when the rest of the fence is down. What is the point of that? When you talk with lawmakers, are they a little fatalistic about what they do?
SOTOMAYOR: You know, it has become a reality they have had to accept, especially after January 6. And a good example of just that kind of conversation hundreds of years later is something that Congresswoman Veronica Escobar - she is a Democrat from Texas - had with a friend who texted her Halloween morning, saying, please do not be in front of your house giving out candy. She says, you know, it is an honor to serve. And this is something that I have heard from many lawmakers. They want to be in office. But there are these considerations that they now have to take. And it really guilts them to see just how much worry this political climate and them being in it gives to their family and their friends.
INSKEEP: Marianna Sotomayor of The Washington Post, thanks so much.
SOTOMAYOR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.