U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga.
WASHINGTON—U.S. Capitol Police on Monday took steps toward obtaining an arrest warrant for Rep. Cynthia McKinney after she tangled with a uniformed officer last week. A spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Wainstein said he was reviewing the merits of the case.
"We are working with Capitol Hill police to fully understand and appreciate the incident," principal assistant U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
McKinney framed the matter in terms of race. "The issue is racial profiling," McKinney, who is Black, told CNN.
Neither Phillips nor the police department would say what charge was being sought against the six-term Democrat or when any warrant for her arrest might be issued.
In a statement, Capitol Police said it "has referred its investigative findings to the U.S. attorney." Filing such an affidavit is the first step in obtaining an arrest warrant. Only if Wainstein approves the affidavit can Capitol Police officials ask a judge to issue the arrest warrant.
Wainstein could clear the way for a warrant. He also could turn the case over to a grand jury, even without a warrant, or he could decline to go forward with the case.
McKinney spokesperson Coz Carson acknowledged the investigation.
"We're aware that the wheels are turning in Washington," Carson said. "We have no control over what they decide to do. We will make the appropriate statement and take the appropriate action once we know where they're going."
For her part, McKinney said she expects to represent her suburban Atlanta district for many years.
"Rest assured, I am doing the work they sent me to Washington to do. Nothing is going to keep me away from my responsibilities," McKinney told a crowd of supporters in Atlanta on Monday.
McKinney, 51, scuffled with a police officer on March 29 when she entered a House office building without her identifying lapel pin and did not stop when asked.
Several police sources said the officer, who was not identified, asked her three times to stop. When she kept going, he placed a hand somewhere on her and she hit him, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
McKinney issued a statement of regret for the incident but no apology. She and her lawyers have repeatedly declared that she was a victim of inappropriate touching and racism and said they were considering pursuing civil action against the officer.
She and her attorneys have refused to say whether she hit the officer as alleged. James Myart Jr., her lawyer, suggested in a CNN interview that McKinney had acted in self-defense.
Black clergy and lawmakers came to the defense of the firebrand representative on Monday. McKinney smiled as her supporters heaped praise on her leadership and her new look — her trademark cornrows replaced earlier this year by a curly brown Afro.
Her supporters tried to minimize the incident — which they called political, not criminal — but they also suggested it was an example of racial profiling. They called publicity surrounding the episode a distraction that is being used by "her enemies" to keep the representative from performing her elected duties.
The Rev. Darrell D. Elligan, president of Concerned Black Clergy, called McKinney competent, courageous and committed.
"She has our support unconditionally," Elligan said. "She is not a threat to the security of our country."
— The Associated Press