Man charged over death threats to Biden and Rep. Bennie Thompson
A Pennsylvania man was indicted Wednesday for allegedly threatening to kill President Biden, House Jan. 6 select committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and a U.S. District Court judge, the Department of Justice announced.
Driving the news: Prosecutors accuse Robert Maverick Vargo of sending a letter "alluding to 'Anthrax,' and containing what appeared to be a white powder" to Thompson's office last week — days before the panel held their closing hearing on the U.S. Capitol riot and voted to subpoena former President Trump.
- The letter "specifically referenced" Thompson's role with the panel and also threatened his family and Judge Robert Mariani, according to the DOJ statement. It allegedly stated:
"Im going to kill you! I will make you feel the rest of our pain & suffering. There is nowhere or nobody who can keep you from me. I am going to kill you & those you love. I promise you that I will keep my promise until the day of my death. ... You & Joe Biden soon will face death for the wrongs you've done to US."— Excerpt from letter sent to Thompson's office, according to the DOJ
Of note: Prosecutors allege that Vargo, from Berwick, Pennsylvania, sent the letter from the state's Luzerne County Correctional Facility.
For the record: A U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) investigation "determined that the white powder accompanying the threats did not pose an immediate public safety hazard," according to the Justice Department.
Where it stands: A federal grand jury indicted the 25-year-old Vargo on charges of threatening the President of the United States, interstate communications with a threat and influencing a federal official by threat.
What we're watching: If found guilty, Vargo could face up to 25 years in prison.
The big picture: Threats against lawmakers have been rising for years. But there's been a notable surge since the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection — prompting the USCP to take steps to better monitor and investigate threats.
- Data shared with Axios last June showed threats against Congress members investigated by U.S. Capitol Police jumped 144% between the first year of Trump's term and the first year of Biden's.
- The House sergeant-at-arms office began covering security equipment and installation costs at House members' personal residences in August in response to the threats.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.