A Queens, N.Y. man was arrested earlier this month on charges that he threatened to kill Donald Trump. The man stated that he was upset with Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election.
Countless others have received death threats related to 2020 election fraud conspiracy theories, but no arrests have been made.
In their study “Anatomy of a Death Threat,” Reuters documented more than 850 threatening and hostile messages directed at election workers and officials. The threats were associated with Donald Trump’s false claim that the election he lost was stolen.
To further flesh out the context for these threatening messages, consider Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani’s false charge that Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, a mother and daughter, engaged in election-rigging.
Giuliani’s false charge was used as fodder for Trump in his January 2, 2021 call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, in which he pressured Raffensberger to “find 11,780 votes” to change the state’s result in his favor. During the call, Trump singled out Ruby Freeman, calling the 62-year-old grandmother a “professional vote scammer” who “stuffed the ballot boxes.”
Shortly thereafter, Freeman and Moss received threatening phone calls containing racial slurs. Freeman also reported repeated occurrences of loud banging on her door. She called for help pleading, “Lord Jesus, where’s the police? I don’t know who keeps coming to my door.”
In Reuters’ study, they gathered threatening emails, voicemails, texts, letters and Internet posts that originated from 16 states that were among the most hotly contested in the 2020 presidential race.
Practically all 850 messages referred to the widely discredited contention that the 2020 election was stolen. The messages collected represent only a sample of all threats to election workers nationwide, of which nearly 1 in 4 suggested the targets should die.
One target that Reuters documented was Jim Condos, Vermont’s Secretary of State, who retrieved the following voice mails:
“This might be a good time to put a f—ing pistol in your f—ing mouth and pull the trigger.”
“YOU AND YOUR FAMILY WILL BE KILLED VERY SLOWLY.”
“WE ARE NOW WATCHING YOUR CHILDREN. Your daughter is beautiful. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”
Attorneys believe that 110 of the hostile messages meet the federal threshold for prosecution, messages thought to constitute “true threats, generally defined as those intended to put a person in fear of death or bodily harm or to inflict severe emotional distress.” Many more encouraged violence but did not threaten to take action. Threatening an election worker or official has rarely led to an arrest even when a true threat was made.
The Supreme Court has yet to define a “true threat,” tying the hands of police and prosecutors. Reuters noted that, “Law enforcement officials often look for language or context that reflects a clear intent to act or instill fear, rather than simply suggesting a frightening outcome. For instance, many prosecutors would consider “I will kill you” as a clear threat, but “you should die” as legally protected speech.”
After reviewing the messages, Georgetown University law professor Erica Hashimoto stated, “I’d be terrified by some of these messages, but if it’s protected by the First Amendment, there’s basically nothing you can do about it. How it makes a person feel doesn’t really make a difference.”
One election supervisor was warned, “Detonations will occur at every polling site set up in this county.” A worker involved in a recount was threatened, “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it.” Several officials received this brief but ominous message: “Click…Click…Boom.”
To date, Trump has not vehemently condemned the flood of threats being made in his name. This is just a variation of his waiting hours to call the dogs off during the January 6 insurrection and a continuation of his campaign of terror.
In June, the U.S. Department of Justice formed a task force to investigate and bring charges against anyone who threatens election workers. Thus far, while Trump’s harasser was arrested, there haven’t been any arrests of those who made death threats against election workers and officials who feel unsafe in their jobs. Many have since resigned.
Who will replace them?
If fear wins out, then Trump partisans will.