Capitol Police responded to reports of suspicious packages placed just outside the offices of several Democratic members of Congress on Thursday in what turned out to be an imprudent prank staged by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
A spokeswoman for the police department told HuffPost the scene was declared safe by 4 p.m. EDT.
The packages, each topped with bows, were meant to be interpreted as “moving boxes” for vulnerable Democrats who voted in favor of the resolution to formalize the impeachment process earlier in the day.
“Get packing!” read the otherwise plain U.S. Postal Service boxes, which were signed by “The NRCC.” They appeared to be taped shut.
The NRCC is “dedicated to defeating Democrats and taking back the House in 2020.”
Police were called to confirm the packages were harmless because some staffers were unnerved by their sudden appearance. Last year, more than a dozen pipe bombs were mailed to progressive donors and prominent Democrats, some of whom served in Congress.
The message appeared to be: Support for the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump will cost you your job.
“I’d like to thank the Capitol Police for their professionalism in responding to the suspicious package left at our office today,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) said in a tweet.
She added: “The [NRCC] pulled a ridiculous stunt, leaving suspicious packages across Capitol Hill and diverting and wasting law enforcement resources.”
The conservative group expressed no hint of remorse on its Twitter page, instead offering gleeful commentary on the attempted prank.
“We know Democrats love investigations but why are they looking a gift horse in the mouth? These boxes will be useful next November!” read one NRCC post in response to a HuffPost reporter’s tweet about the boxes.
The group also responded to Spanberger, telling her to “save the box” because she will “need it next November.”
HuffPost can confirm that Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) also received a package. According to Politico reporter Sarah Ferris, they were also delivered to Reps. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas), Kim Schrier (D-Wash.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.).
Congressional reporter Alex Thomas noticed Capitol Police officers questioning what appeared to be the NRCC staffers who brought the boxes into the building. “It’s two kids,” he said in a tweet.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has offered to repurpose the boxes.
“We’d be happy to use those boxes so that our staff can run a Thanksgiving food drive and turn your hilarious prank into a force for good,” the group said.
Matt Fuller contributed reporting.