The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Lawmakers denounce GOP Rep. Brooks for appearing sympathetic to Capitol bomb threat suspect

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) speaks at a rally in support of President Donald Trump in Washington on Jan. 6. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Several members of Congress, including at least one Republican, have harshly criticized Rep. Mo Brooks after the Alabama Republican released a statement appearing to commiserate with a man who on Thursday had m a bomb threat near the U.S. Capitol and caused an hours-long standoff with police.

On Thursday morning, a North Carolina man officials identified as Floyd Ray Roseberry drove a truck onto the sidewalk outside the Library of Congress and claimed to have explosive devices in his vehicle. In a Facebook live stream, Roseberry ranted about the state of the country, demanded to speak with President Biden and declared “the revolution is on, it’s here, it’s today.”

Roseberry’s actions prompted the evacuation of nearby homes and congressional office buildings and forced lengthy road closures around the Capitol complex. Roseberry eventually surrendered after about five hours and was arrested, the U.S. Capitol Police said.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, Brooks said he was aware of the bomb threat and was “monitoring the situation” from Alabama, while lamenting that “violence and threats of violence targeting America’s political institutions are far too common.”

Brooks then appeared to sympathize with the bomb threat suspect, saying he understood “citizenry anger directed at dictatorial Socialism.” Roseberry’s family told The Washington Post that Roseberry disliked Biden’s policies and was a supporter of former president Donald Trump, with whom Brooks is also aligned.

“Although this terrorist’s motivation is not yet publicly known, and generally speaking, I understand citizenry anger directed at dictatorial Socialism and its threat to liberty, freedom and the very fabric of American society,” Brooks said. “The way to stop Socialism’s march is for patriotic Americans to fight back in the 2022 and 2024 elections. I strongly encourage patriotic Americans to do exactly that, more so than ever before.”

Nowhere in his statement did Brooks outright denounce the bomb threat. He instead ended on an ominous note.

“Bluntly stated, America’s future is at risk,” he said.

Almost immediately, the statement was slammed by Democrats and outraged citizens, some of whom said they would be reporting Brooks for sympathizing with domestic terrorism.

“It is astonishing that this needs to be said but no one who serves in Congress should be expressing public sympathy with the views of a terrorist who threatened to blow up the U.S. Capitol,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted. “I would have thought we could all at least agree on that.”

“Tell us you stand with the terrorist without telling us you stand with the terrorist,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) tweeted. In March, Swalwell filed a lawsuit against Brooks, accusing him and others of inciting a pro-Trump mob that overran the Capitol in a deadly insurrection on Jan. 6. Brooks has since continued to falsely claim that Trump won the 2020 election.

“I know it seems like hyperbole when we say that Republicans have become enemies of democracy, but here is a mainstream Republican TAKING THE SIDE OF THE BOMBER,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted.

On Friday morning, the co-chairs of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee released a statement calling on House Republican leaders to denounce Brooks’s comments, which they described as a “dangerous statement expressing sympathy for domestic terrorism.”

“From spreading lies about the 2020 election which led to a violent insurrection, to spreading lies about COVID-19 which are making it harder to get Americans vaccinated, to Mr. Brooks’ latest expression of sympathy for domestic terrorism, Republicans’ repeated refusal to stand on the side of truth is dangerous,” said the co-chairs, Reps. Matthew Cartwright (Pa.), Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Ted Lieu (Calif.) and Joe Neguse (Colo.).

Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), have largely remained silent about Brooks’s tweet. Only Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who has been an outspoken critic of Trump and has for months urged his party — in vain — to distance itself from the former president, blasted Brooks’s statement as “evil.”

“The GOP has a decision to make,” Kinzinger tweeted. “Are we going to be the party that keeps stoking sympathy for domestic terrorists and pushes out truth, or finally take a stand for truth. I’ve made my decision, so has Mo. Now it’s up to GOP conference leadership to make theirs.”

Representatives for McCarthy did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In a statement Friday, Brooks called the allegations “bunk.”

“Only the illiterate, hyper-partisans, or those with a brain the size of a pea would claim I called for or sympathized with violence when my words quite clearly urge those who are angry to channel their anger into making a difference at the ballot box in the 2022 and 2024 elections,” Brooks said, according to his spokesman Clay Mills.

Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger announced the man claiming to have a bomb near the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 19 was in custody. (Video: Reuters)

It’s hardly the first time Democrats — and some Republicans — have called for there to be repercussions against a member of Congress for rhetoric that they claim will encourage further violence. Earlier this month, several Democrats demanded that McCarthy apologize or resign after he said it would “be hard not to hit” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with the gavel if he becomes speaker.

Brooks is running for the U.S. Senate, seeking to replace Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), who is retiring.

Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.