(FILES) This file photo taken on October 17, 2013 shows the US Capitol building before sunrise in Washington, DC. ...
JEWEL SAMAD

Why Republicans delivered suspicious packages to congressional offices

Updated

An unfortunate part of work on Capitol Hill is learning to be cautious about suspicious packages. This has been true for a while, but congressional aides were reminded of the threat around this time last year when a deranged Donald Trump supporter targeted lawmakers and prominent journalists with pipe bombs.

With this in mind, Roll Call reported yesterday on an unfortunate and ill-considered Republican stunt.

Several House Democrats in battleground districts complained Thursday that a political stunt by Republicans intended to warn them they would not be in office long because of impeachment instead ended up wasting the time of Capitol Police after aides complained of receiving suspicious packages.

The National Republican Congressional Committee sent packing boxes to the Capitol Hill offices of the Democrats, most of whom flipped Republican districts in 2018 and are expected to have competitive campaigns to keep them next year.

The suspicious packages were supposed to represent “moving boxes,” which the NRCC found amusing. Others were far less entertained: Aaron Fritschner, who works for Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), explained that he heard members of the U.S. Capitol Police, whose time Republicans wasted, tell staffers, “Do not touch a package like that, call us first.”

Among those targeted with “moving boxes” were Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), and Conor Lamb (D-Pa.). For her part, Wexton responded, “I cannot figure out why anyone would think it’s funny to leave suspicious packages for members of Congress.”

Common sense makes clear this prank was unwise, but I’m also struck by the ostensible point of the stunt gone awry: for the National Republican Congressional Committee, lawmakers approving an impeachment inquiry – not impeachment itself, but simply seeking answers about alleged presidential wrongdoing – are risking their careers by ignoring the will of the electorate.

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel added, in reference to the impeachment inquiry, “The longer this goes, we are seeing more and more voters shift to supporting the president and recognizing that this is a totally partisan endeavor by the Democrats.”

There’s quite a bit of evidence to the contrary.

In fact, just this morning, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that a plurality of Americans supports both impeaching Donald Trump and removing him from office. The same results found the president with a 38% approval rating – not exactly where Trump wants to be a year ahead of his re-election effort – and a 78% approval rating among Republicans.

For Trump, who routinely claims to have a 95% approval rating among GOP voters – a number he repeats despite having made it up – that 78% level of support is the lowest of his presidency in Post/ABC polling.

Taking a look at overall averages published by FiveThirtyEight, Trump’s national support has clearly slid since the Ukraine scandal came to public light in September.

The NRCC’s prank was ostensibly born of confidence: Republicans believe voters on the White House’s side and will punish lawmakers who dare to break with Donald Trump. But given the latest evidence on public attitudes, Democrats who support the impeachment inquiry should expect thank-you notes, not moving boxes.