- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 30, 2006

The investigation into the scuffle between Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney and a Capitol Police officer is moving forward, with several Hill staffers being subpoenaed as witnesses.

Aides to members of Congress from both parties last week informed House leaders they will comply with subpoenas issued for them to testify before a Washington grand jury regarding the confrontation.

Miss McKinney, Georgia Democrat, apologized under pressure for striking the officer, who stopped her as she went around metal detectors at a House office building checkpoint.

However, the investigation is active, authorities said Friday. Capitol Police requested an arrest warrant be issued for Miss McKinney, but the decision is in the hands of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The prospect of assault charges hangs over Miss McKinney, 51, as she faces a primary election challenge and after her attorney dropped her as a client.

She seeks re-election in November, but first must battle Hank Johnson in a July primary. Mr. Johnson, a lawyer and county commissioner, does not mention Miss McKinney or her encounter with the Capitol Police officer on his campaign Web site. He did tell the Associated Press that residents of the district are “tired of constant controversy.”

It is not Miss McKinney’s first election threat.

The six-term representative lost her seat in 2002 to fellow Democrat Denise Majette in a primary defeat attributed largely to comments she made suggesting President Bush profited from the September 11 attacks. She returned to Congress in 2004 when Mrs. Majette made a failed bid for a Senate seat.

Miss McKinney also drew attention earlier this month for calling one of her aides a “fool.”

She made the comment after a television interview and didn’t realize that her microphone was still on. She then insisted the disparaging remark was off the record. But the television station aired the footage, which was picked up by CNN.

A source in the U.S. Attorney’s Office said that once the grand jury completes its work, the office either will make a statement of its findings or will indict Miss McKinney on charges of assaulting a police officer. Such a charge carries a maximum sentence of five years.

“We’re still considering it an ongoing investigation,” the source said.

Before the incident Miss McKinney had bypassed metal detectors, as members are allowed to do, but the officer did not recognize her and tried to stop her from going by him. Miss McKinney, who had changed her well-known braided hairstyle and was not wearing the official lapel pin that most members display, has said she showed the officer her identification.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the officer, identified as Paul McKenna, testified that Miss McKinney hit him with a closed fist. The officer also testified that he asked the congresswoman three times to stop, the newspaper reported.

Miss McKinney notes on her Web site that at the time of the confrontation, “No arrest is made and nothing is said about any criminal charges.”

She reports on her site that she told the acting chief of the Capitol Police about a “pattern of conduct” in officers failing to recognize her, dating back to 1993. The chief apologized to her, she said.

After she first complained about officers, Capitol Police posted her photo on an office wall so officers could remember her.

“There should not have been any physical contact in this incident,” Miss McKinney said April 6 during a terse apology on the House floor.

Terrance W. Gainer, then chief of the Capitol Police, defended the officer and said his force was responsible for the daily screening of 30,000 employees and visitors to the Capitol complex.

“If [officers] are not sure who’s walking in that door, I expect them to challenge that person. And the person who is challenged has no right to strike an officer,” said Chief Gainer, who recently retired.

Miss McKinney has said she will vote in favor of a resolution commending Capitol Police. The measure, sponsored after the incident by two Republican representatives looking to prove a point, is pending in committee.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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