Police investigating Cliven Bundy-related threats to Harry Reid
By: Manu Raju
April 28, 2014 04:29 PM EDT
Federal law enforcement officials are investigating threats made against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the aftermath of his sharp-edged attacks against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, sources said Monday.
Reid has not minced words about Bundy’s battle with the Bureau of Land Management, referring to Bundy’s supporters as “domestic terrorists” and the rancher himself as a “hateful racist.” As he’s stepped up his criticism, Reid has been the subject of threats himself, prompting an increase in his own security detail in recent days, people familiar with the matter said Monday.
Shennell Antrobus, a spokesman for the U.S. Capitol Police, declined to comment on the number of security personnel assigned to Reid or the nature of the threats against the Democratic leader. But he confirmed that the police are investigating “threatening statements” made against the majority leader.
“We are currently looking into threatening statements made against Sen. Reid as part of an ongoing investigation,” Antrobus said.
Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson declined to comment.
It’s not unusual for a politician in such a position of power to be the subject of threats; federal officials routinely investigate threats made against leaders of all stripes.
But the Reid inquiry comes as other Democrats are raising security concerns over the Bundy episode.
Rep. Steven Horsford — a freshman Nevada Democrat whose district spans the region outside of Las Vegas where Bundy is battling the BLM — expressed serious concerns Sunday that out-of-state “armed militia groups” were exerting undue influence and scaring residents in Bunkerville, Nev., and the surrounding areas, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
In a Sunday letter to Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, Horsford alleged that armed groups have created checkpoints requiring individuals “to prove they live in the area before being allowed to pass” and have established “a persistent presence” around highways, local schools and churches.
“We must respect individual constitutional liberties, but the residents of and visitors to Clark County should not be expected to live under the persistent watch of an armed militia,” Horsford said in the letter.
The increasingly tense battle stems from a conflict over grazing rights on public lands. Bundy owes $1.1 million in grazing fees after he stopped paying the Bureau of Land Management in retaliation against the government’s move to restrict grazing in an effort to protect the endangered desert tortoise. The agency, which is headed by a 35-year-old former Reid aide, Neil Kornze, who won Senate confirmation earlier this month, manages more than 260 million acres of public lands, mostly in the West.
With armed supporters protecting his herd, Bundy has battled with BLM agents seeking to seize some 500 cattle following charges by the government that his family has long been illegally grazing his cattle there. The fight has made Bundy a national celebrity with conservatives for his battles with what critics call an overreaching federal government and efforts to limit dissent in harsh ways, such as using tasers on protesters in Nevada.
But Republicans quickly abandoned Bundy last week after his remarks disparaging African Americans and questioning whether they’d be better off under slavery appeared in The New York Times.
“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he said. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
Bundy later responded: “If they think I’m racist, they are totally wrong.”