House Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner, have received messages sent to their private email addresses with veiled threats of political payback if they supported a debt-ceiling increase, according to BuzzFeed.
The notes were sent from a person with the moniker "unrepresentative one" and had the word "targets" in the forwarding line along the top.
The messages, which were sent from the anonymous email address email@example.com, have caused some anxiety amongst Republican ranks, because internal email addresses on Capitol Hill are usually cloaked in secrecy.
There have even been suggestions that a GOP member or one of their high-level staffers could have sent the emails, or had at least been the instigator behind the bizarre attacks.
"It's got to be another member, probably one of the crazy ones," one Republican who had seen the emails was quoted by BuzzFeed as saying.
The cryptic messages surfaced in late January and then again in early February while the GOP was holding its annual retreat
in Maryland, where Republicans discussed plans to link an increase to the debt limit to concessions from the White House, such as approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
But on Tuesday, Boehner was among 28 House Republicans who backed a one-year extension of the nation's borrowing limit with no restrictions. The bill was passed in the Senate the following day.
The emails sent to the closely guarded personal email addresses of House Republicans included a string of forwarded emails previously sent by the "unrepresentative one" to Boehner and Oklahoma Rep. James Lankford.
According to BuzzFeed, the underlying message in the missives implied that if Republicans voted for a debt-ceiling increase they would then be targeted by a shadowy groups called firstname.lastname@example.org, which was referred to in the notes.
In the email to Boehner, the sender claims at first that he's a loyal supporter of the Ohio Republican, but then accuses him of lying to the public.
The email says, "John, I've never voted against you. Nor have I ever not done whatever you asked of me, nor am I one of the second-guessers who thinks you have an easy job. But, isn't it time we stopped lying to the American People in re the debt limit?"
The writer then quotes articles from Forbes and The Wall Street Journal suggesting that a refusal by Congress to raise the debt-limit would not trigger a default of the country's debt.
"Since there's no chance of default under any circumstances, let's just start saying so," says "unrepresentative one," adding chillingly, "The truth will set us free (and may keep you in the Seat for as long as you want it)."
The memo contained several attachments, including a list of "targeted debt hikers" who had supported debt-ceiling increases in the past, as well as a spreadsheet of Lankford's donors.
The message concluded with a strange exchange between the "unresponsive one" and the mystery group email@example.com, saying, "High discretion required on attached - no ID on this or source $. Your colleagues merit everything planned. No idea how you can stand it, but yes, you are exempt."
Lankford, who is the favorite
to replace retiring Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn in a special election in November, denied that the message had been sent internally by another GOP member, and that, in fact, it must have come from "some weird" person on the outside.
He told BuzzFeed, "It reads too weird to be that. At one point in one of the original emails they call me Jim. No one calls me Jim. I go by James. There's one addressed to the Speaker and it starts off to 'John.' Nobody calls the speaker 'John.'
"So it looks like something someone has created on the outside that wants to pretend they look like us. Because I keep looking at and reading it and thinking nobody even reads or writes like this. And it's just too weird."
A former congressional aide to a House GOP leader fueled the conspiracy theory that a Republican colleague or a staffer had sent or instigated the emails by declaring, "It's very, very difficult to get those emails address."
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