Updated Jan 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Lawmakers targeted by holiday swatting incidents

Marjorie Taylor Greene is seen after a news conference on Dec. 13. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Multiple lawmakers were targeted by swatting incidents over the holidays, spurring large and disruptive police responses at their homes.

Why it matters: Threats against lawmakers have soared in recent years and the swatting incidents underscore just how close to home these threats can hit.

  • Swatting calls — fake emergency calls to 911 operators, which often result in SWAT teams being dispatched to address potentially violent situations — have been rising nationwide, targeting not just lawmakers but also schools and hospitals.
  • Just last month, House Democrats launched a task force on lawmakers' security due to rising threats.

State of play: Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) on Thursday became the latest lawmaker to announce being the target of a swatting incident, writing on X that "while at dinner with my wife, cowards 'swatted' my home in Naples."

  • "These criminals wasted the time & resources of our law enforcement in a sick attempt to terrorize my family," he added.
  • Rep. Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.) announced on X Christmas Day that his home was swatted that afternoon. Five law enforcement cars arrived at his home to respond to the call and the incident is being investigated by both local police and U.S. Capitol Police, he wrote in an update.
  • The next day, Williams wrote his home was doxxed after a local news outlet published a photo of the house.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has been the target of previous swatting calls, posted on X last Monday that she was swatted on Christmas morning — as well as on Dec. 21.

  • "I was just swatted. This is like the 8th time. On Christmas with my family here," she wrote.
  • Greene posted on X Wednesday that one of her family members was swatted at their home. On Thursday, she wrote that both of her daughters' houses had been swatted.

Worth noting: Members of Congress weren't the only high-profile swatting incidents over the holidays.

  • Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows (D), who last week disqualified former President Trump from appearing on the Maine 2024 presidential primary ballot, announced in a Facebook post Saturday that her family's home had been swatted Friday.
  • "We are away for the holiday weekend. We were not home yesterday when threats escalated, and our home address was posted online. It was a good thing because our home was swatted last night," she wrote.

The big picture: "Anytime a Member of Congress is the victim of a 'swatting' incident, we work closely with our local and federal law enforcement partners," the U.S. Capitol Police told Axios in an emailed statement Tuesday.

  • However, USCP said it could not provide further details about the swatting incidents in order to "protect ongoing investigations and to minimize the risk of copy-cats."
  • The FBI said in an emailed statement Tuesday that it "takes all threats very seriously and will continue to work with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to gather, share, and act upon threat information."
  • The FBI also pointed to its creation in May 2023 of a national database to track swatting incidents, which it called a "collaborative effort" between the bureau and law enforcement partners to create a "real-time picture of swatting incidents."

What to watch: Both Greene and Scott indicated they intend to pursue legislative action as a result of the swatting incidents.

  • "I'm talking to law enforcement about what legislation is needed to guarantee justice when 'swatting' calls happen," Scott posted on X Friday.
  • In her post Wednesday, Greene added that she will be "introducing legislation to make it much easier for law enforcement to arrest and prosecutors to prosecute these criminals."
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