A spokesperson for Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Thursday that cease and desist letters sent to an unspecified number of individuals in October were sent because staffers were being harassed and have nothing to do with activists who have been protesting outside the senator's office this week or payback for constituents simply voicing opposing views.
Cotton's communications director Caroline Rabbitt Tabler told the Washington Examiner the practice of sending these types of letters is "rare" and "only used under extreme circumstances" when previous warnings have not been successful.
"Senator Cotton is always happy to hear from Arkansans and encourages everyone to contact his offices to express their thoughts, concerns, and opinions. In order to maintain a safe work environment, if an employee of Senator Cotton receives repeated communications that are harassing and vulgar, or any communication that contains a threat, our policy is to notify the U.S. Capitol Police’s Threat Assessment Section and, in accordance with their guidance, send a cease and desist letter to the individual making the harassing or threatening communication," Rabbitt Tabler said in a statement.
Rabbitt Tabler did not share the actions that prompted Cotton's office to take these actions or the identities of the individuals.
John Noonan, counselor to Cotton on military and defense affairs, said the letter was sent to a constituent who threatened a 19-year-old intern.
"Letter went out in October. To one constituent, who called one of our 19 year old interns a c*** and threatened her physically," Noonan tweeted.
On Wednesday, activists who had gathered outside Cotton's office to protest his opposition to the Dream Act were asked to leave.
Later that day, liberal activist group Ozark Indivisible tweeted that its members had been sent cease and desist letters.
"This letter is immediate notification that all communication must cease and desist immediately with all offices of US Senator Tom Cotton. All other contact will be deemed harassment and will be reported to the United States Capitol Police," the letter states.
#TraitorTommy @TomCottonAR scared of his constituents calling so he’s sending out cease and desist letters. You’re too ???? to lead CIA if you can’t even listen to constituents! #arpx pic.twitter.com/N1HAGCmbW6— Ozark Indivisible (@OZRKIndivisible) January 18, 2018
The Arkansas Times blog published what it said was text from a letter that Cotton sent one of the individuals. The letter writer does not address threats or harassment against the senator.
"I received a letter from the office of U.S. Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas after calling and expressing my grave concerns over his actions and support of this administration's agenda concerning a wide variety of subjects from the attack on our healthcare, DACA and immigration issues, to national security, to the rise of white nationalist fascism, to the environment, the gutting of our State Department, the attack on the free press ... and similar deeply troubling actions & motives I've seen Senator Cotton support & condone," the letter stated.
"It was odd to receive this letter as I've called other Members of Congress to express my strong thoughts and opinions about their actions and thought this to be not only my duty as an American citizen but my First Amendment right granted all U.S. citizens by our U.S. Constitution, the foundation of our Democracy.
"I believe if Tom Cotton's office were to respond as to why they sent this letter, I think they just honestly don't want to listen to any citizen's opposing view or hear the numerous grave concerns U.S. citizens have about the serious & ongoing attack on our Democracy and past election cycle in which a foreign, hostile Russian government interfered, they don't want U.S. citizens to call and speak their mind and truth in a very direct manner and they obviously don't want to be held accountable for their words and actions while serving all the people in this nation," the letter continued. "I may have used unprofessional and unbecoming language at times as the anxiety and stress of what I'm witnessing is at times too great a burden to control and I have vehemently expressed my righteous anger at Senator Cotton's complicitness with this harmful regime."