WASHINGTON – Colorado Rep. Jason Crow, a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, says it took time for him to stop constantly scanning his environment for threats when he returned from war 15 years ago. But after the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, he says he’s picked the habit up again.
Crow was trapped with several other members of Congress in the upper gallery of the U.S. House that day while a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters tried to beat down the doors to the chamber and stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
Crow says he never would have thought “in a million years” he’d be in that situation in the Capitol, but some of his old training has since kicked in, like looking in his rear-view mirror and assessing if people around him might be carrying a gun. Like almost every other member of Congress, his office has received threats against his life.
“There’s no doubt that members are on edge right now,” Crow says, and the threats from outside “are unfortunately the reality of congressional life.”
Those threats have more than doubled this year, according to the U.S. Capitol Police, and many members of Congress say they fear for their personal safety more than they did before the siege. Several say they have boosted security measures to protect themselves and their families, money for which will be part of a broad $1.9 billion spending bill that the House will vote on this week, along with a separate measure that would create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. Democrats, in particular, say both bills are crucial to try to reconcile the trauma that many still feel.
“This was an armed assault on our democracy, and I’m a witness — I’m a victim and a witness to it,” says New Hampshire Rep. Annie Kuster. She received treatment for post-traumatic stress after she was also trapped in the House gallery that day and heard rioters trying to break through the doors close to where she was hiding.
Kuster says she thought she was going to die before officers cleared the hallways and hustled her and others out. “I think we need a full investigation with a Jan. 6th commission, and I believe that the Capitol Police who saved our lives that day deserve more support," she says.
Democrats say a bipartisan commission investigating the attack, including what led to it, is more important than ever after some Republicans have recently started to downplay the severity of the insurrection, portraying the rioters who brutally beat officers with flagpoles and other weapons and broke into the Capitol through windows and doors as peaceful patriots.