The leader of the Iowa House says some lessons have already been learned from how a potential threat to a lawmaker was handled on Tuesday.
A “very threatening letter” was hand-delivered to the legislature’s mail room and, when it was opened by the clerk who works for the lawmaker, a “suspicious powder” spilled out. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen has asked for an “after action report” to review the incident step-by-step.
“If something like that happens, we need to try to contain the situation,” Paulsen told reporters this morning. “We did not, in my opinion, do a very good job of containing it and from a House employee, House member standpoint, I think that’s important that we do.”
A HazMat team eventually determined the powder was not dangerous, but only after the state representative and his clerk had moved from their desk on the House floor to an entryway that leads to the statehouse rotunda — the majestic, multiple-story center of the capitol. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy stressses that statehouse safety is not a partisan issue.
“I think we, as legislators, need to be better aware of how to handle situations like this,” McCarthy said this morning. “Hopefully, it never happens again, but if it does, we need to be better aware of how to handle the situation and so does every other entity that would be involved.”
Paulsen said the review he’s asked for will include how unstamped, hand-delivered mail for legislators is handled.
“I don’t think this is just a House issue,” Paulsen said. “I think it’s a capitol/General Assembly issue.”
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal is the top leader in the senate. “I think people are going to appropriately do a review of what the procedures and process was,” Gronstal said this morning.
On Tuesday night during a brief news conference Representative Ako Abdul-Samad was reluctant to reveal the contents of the “threatening letter” he received. Gronstal hints the threat was a response to something Abdul-Samad said.
“I think it’s important to remember that an attack on somebody’s free speech and, basically, a threat that they’ll be murdered is an incredibly inappropriate thing,” Gronstal told reporters this morning.
An official who was involved in the initial response on Tuesday indicated the threat to Abdul-Samad was racially-charged. Abdul-Samad, who is black, has declined to reveal what the letter said.