Federal authorities charged a New York man Wednesday with making threatening phone calls to the offices of two high-ranking House Republican leaders, Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
A charging document filed in U.S. District Court in Buffalo alleges that Carlos Bayon of Grand Island, N.Y., left voicemails on the evening of June 30 containing physical threats against the two lawmakers, including that “we are going to feed them lead.”
A U.S. Capitol Police officer used phone records and law enforcement databases to trace the calls back to Bayon, according to the document. The officer matched the voice in the calls to video of Bayon speaking in a local news report.
Scalise (La.) and McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) are not named in the complaint, but congressional aides familiar with the investigation confirmed the identity of the threatened lawmakers. The charging documents indicate one call was made to a congressional office in Spokane, Wash., in McMorris Rodgers’s district.
Bayon’s threats appear to have been inspired by President Trump’s immigration policies — in particular, the “zero tolerance” border policy that resulted in the separation of migrant families. The spate of family separations was top national news at the time the calls were made.
“Hey listen, this message is for you and the people that sent you there,” Bayon allegedly said in the message to Scalise. “You are taking ours, we are taking yours. Anytime, anywhere. We know where they are. We are not going to feed them sandwiches; we are going to feed them lead. Make no mistake you will pay. Ojo por ojo, diente por diente. [“An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth."] That is our law and we are the majority. Have a good day.”
The message said to have been left for McMorris Rodgers was nearly identical.
The threats came almost exactly a year after a gunman targeted Scalise and other Republican lawmakers during a early-morning baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. Scalise was grievously wounded by the gunman and continues to recover from the injury.
Bayon, 62, appeared in court Wednesday but did not enter a plea. Under federal law, a conviction for using interstate communications to make a physical threat can result in a prison sentence of up to five years.
A public defender who is representing Bayon did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
“Whip Scalise is grateful to law enforcement for their actions,” Scalise spokeswoman Lauren Fine said. “He will never forget how their heroism saved his life and those of his colleagues last year. As he has said before, there is absolutely no place in our political discourse for violent threats.”
A spokesman for McMorris Rodgers declined to comment.