Another feud amid the most acrimonious political season in modern history has sparked another round of threats against an elected official.
Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) skipped votes in Washington this week amid a wave of threats against her since she sparred with President Trump over the treatment of the widow of a soldier killed in Niger.
The 74-year-old lawmaker represents a Miami-area district and is now among the dozens of lawmakers to face threats this year. She was riding in a limousine with the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson this month when Trump called to convey his condolences. But the content and tone of the call prompted Wilson to complain to reporters, sparking a feud that has stretched into this week as Trump yet again defended his actions during the call.
In the wake of her criticisms, Wilson “spent this week in the district because of concerns about her safety in the aftermath of the feud that President Trump started with her,” the congresswoman’s spokeswoman, Joyce Jones, said in a statement.
Wilson is now being protected by a security detail in Miami, and U.S. Capitol Police are monitoring her office on Capitol Hill, Jones said. She declined to specify the threats against Wilson, “but the calls have run the gamut from racist and rude to outright menacing.”
“It is only because of these extraordinary circumstances that to her dismay she did not travel to Washington to vote,” Jones added. “The congresswoman considers her ability to vote on issues that impact the American public to be one of the most meaningful tools that she can use to represent her constituents and make their voices heard.”
Eva Malecki, a Capitol Police spokeswoman, declined to comment on Wilson’s case, saying, “We do not comment on ongoing investigations.”
An unprecedented wave of threats against public officials this year has prompted congressional security officials to review and follow up on thousands of threatening messages to members of both parties. The threats turned to violence this summer when House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was shot and nearly killed by a gunman who showed up at a congressional baseball practice in Virginia.
Wilson is at least the second black Democratic member of Congress to face threats this year for criticizing Trump. In May, Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) criticized Trump’s decision to dismiss former FBI director James B. Comey and called for the president’s impeachment.
In response, Green received a wave of threats, some of which he played for constituents at a town hall meeting in Houston that month.
“Hey, Al Green, we got an impeachment for you. It’s going to be yours,” one caller said, according to a recording Green played. “Was actually gonna give you a short trial before we hang your n—– a–.”
“You’re not going to impeach anybody, you f—— n—–. … You’ll be hanging from a tree,” another caller said. “I didn’t see anybody calling for the impeachment of your n—– Obama when he was born in Kenya. He’s not even an American. So f— you, n—–.”
Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, said its members are “very concerned about Congresswoman Wilson’s safety. In the context of the Republican baseball practice shooting in June, the Las Vegas concert shooting this month, and increasing threats against members of the Congressional Black Caucus, it is unfortunate that the President, and most recently his Chief of Staff, have contributed to this climate by saying things that are demonstrably not true.”
After several days of controversy surrounding Trump’s and Wilson’s varying accounts, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly took the extraordinary step of speaking publicly on the president’s behalf and admonishing Wilson for sharing details of the call. He also mischaracterized Wilson’s involvement in the naming of an FBI building in Miami, a misstep that only added to the drama and added to accusations that Kelly, a former Marine general, has been disrespectful to black and Latino members of Congress.
Trump on Wednesday revived the controversy over his handling of the condolence call, disputing Myeshia Johnson’s claim that he did not seem to remember her husband’s name and calling into question the memories of others who heard the conversation.
Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Trump said he called Army Sgt. La David Johnson — who was killed in the Oct. 4 ambush in Niger that is still being investigated — by his correct name “right from the beginning.”
“One of the great memories of all time,” the president said, pointing at his head with his left hand. “There’s no hesitation.”