The Capitol Police reported that they had investigated more than twice as many threats against members of Congress as they did four years ago. This is due to former President Donald Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him, and one in six reporting threats were made against election workers. Additionally, many experienced election administrators are leaving their jobs or considering leaving them.
Jake Spano, a member of the National League of Cities and mayor of St. Louis Park, noted that threats have increased in the past five years. A report released in 2021 found that 81% of local elected officials reported receiving threats and 87% saw the problem intensifying.
The town of Spano was inundated with protests in 2018 when Trump expressed his disapproval of the city council’s decision to halt the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of its sessions.
Spano, a Democrat, stated that Donald Trump’s presidency had left an imprint as he made it clear that the norms of how we treat each other are no longer applicable.
Experts caution that the threats are not solely a matter of politicizing national discourse, but rather can lead to political violence.
A Facebook group named “Terminate the Republican Party” was responsible for a violent attack on GOP House members during rehearsals at upcoming charity baseball games in 2017, which resulted in the severe wound of now-House Majority Leader Steve Scalise.
During protests against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s decision not to grant women the right to obtain abortions, a man was apprehended last year with knives, pistols and zip-ties outside his home. Another Ohio man in body armor who had been involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was shot dead after trying to enter an FBI office following the agency’s search of Trump’S Mar-a-Lago resort.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the FBI and called for Justice Department takeover if he wins the presidency again, as well as facing additional charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Trump has labeled Jack Smith, the special counsel for federal prosecutions, as “deranged” and an “out of touch lunatic,” while also accusing him of interference with elections and another attempt to rig the presidential election.
The intensifying language may heighten the risk of violence, particularly as we approach the 2024 election and Trump’s trials. Javed Ali, a former senior FBI counterrorism official now at the University of Michigan, stated that the primary concern is isolated attackers acting on impulse, rather than large-scale attacks like the Capitol attack in January 2006.
He stated that the danger could materialize without any prior indication.
Craig Deleeuw Robertson’s alleged threat to FBI agents was mentioned in an affidavit.
The self-employed woodmason allegedly labeled himself a “MAGA Trumper” and mentioned Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. He also threatened Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, and New York AttorneyGeneral Letitia James, all of whom have been targeted by Trump on social media.
The FBI was alerted to Trump by his Truth Social network after Robertson threatened to kill Bragg, the first prosecutor to charge Trump with criminal offenses, in March.
According to the affidavit, Robertson persisted in posting violent words and images online, even after being visited by FBI agents. He also posted about killing Biden, who was scheduled to visit the state on Thursday.
Robertson was portrayed as an elderly, mostly homebound conservative man who could be easily harmed, according to his friends.
According to Paul Searing, a local businessman who had been following Robertson for years and warned him on social media when he crossed the line, “He was very particular about his right to bear arms and his freedom to express his feelings. He knew that killing innocent people would be unacceptable.”
Social media can transform private conversations into intimidating threats, as stated by Michael German, a former FBI agent and current member of the Brennan Center for Justice.
According to German, things that were once screamed on TV now become more common in public places.
He pointed out that federal law enforcement has been sluggish in their efforts to curb organized right-wing violence, including the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and other similar groups before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
German noted that the rhetoric of Trump and his supporters is a new threat, despite threats against public officials being recurring in the country’s history.
He expressed concern that violent groups have been endorsed by authority figures in the Republican Party, not just Trump himself, and they deny any form of violence.
Kurt Braddock, a communications professor at American University in Washington, D.C., stated that rhetoric should not directly encourage violence among its supporters. Although it may motivate some individuals to commit crimes, it can still be hazardous due to the widespread reach of political and extremist messages on the internet and the vast number of people who consume it.
According to Braddock, it is possible for one person to perceive it as a sign of violence.
Braddock pointed out that the political right is now exposed to more danger and harsher language, but the left also bears the responsibility. Chuck Schumer had warned ahead of Kavanaugh’s arrest outside his home that Republicans would pay for their Supreme Court majority in overturning Roe v. Wade.
However, experts cautioned against assuming that an excessive amount of Americans is politically motivated to resort to violent acts.
According to Joe Mernyk, a doctoral student at Stanford University’s Polarization and Social Change Lab, Democrats who supported political violence were found to have very low levels of support. However, people in the other party’S perception revealed that those in either party had higher support for violence.
According to Mernyk, when the other side was informed that there was low support for violence, participants’ support of violence decreased even more.
According to Mernyk, it is crucial to recognize that individuals like the Utah man are not affiliated with the Republican Party or their beliefs.