FBI says it’s investigating reports of violent threats to Colorado judges in Trump case
Dec 25, 2023, 3:55 PM
(CNN) —The FBI is working with law enforcement officials in Colorado in the wake of threats made against state Supreme Court justices who ruled last week to remove Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 presidential ballot.
“The FBI is aware of the situation and working with local law enforcement,” FBI Public Affairs Officer Vikki Migoya said in a statement provided to CNN on Monday. “We will vigorously pursue investigations of any threat or use of violence committed by someone who uses extremist views to justify their actions regardless of motivation.”
A spokesperson for the Colorado Judicial Branch would not comment on reports of threats to the justices, and a message left with the Denver Police Department was not immediately returned Monday afternoon. Master Trooper Gary Cutler, a spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol, said any threats against judges would be handled by local authorities.
In addition to the federal response, state and local law enforcement officials and non-government research groups have been monitoring rhetoric on extremist online forums for signs it might translate to tangible threats to public officials.
The names of the four Colorado Supreme Court justices who ruled to disqualify Trump from the ballot have appeared frequently in “incendiary” posts on such forums with calls to expose the judges’ personal data, according to an analysis of the online chatter prepared by one non-partisan research organization for US law enforcement agencies that was obtained by CNN.
While the analysis found no specific threats to the judges, it said “there remains a risk of lone actor or small group violence or other illegal activities in response to the ruling.”
One user on a far-right, pro-Trump website posted, “All f— robed rats must f— hang,” an apparent reference to the Colorado justices.
The posts echoed a pattern of online activity seen after previous federal indictments of Trump: vague calls for civil war and disturbingly violent language, but little in the way of specific plans to act on those threats.
In an unprecedented decision last week, Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that Trump isn’t an eligible presidential candidate because of the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban” and therefore can’t appear on the state’s ballot when voters gather for the GOP primary scheduled there for March 5. The ruling will be placed on hold until January 4 pending Trump’s appeal to the US Supreme Court, which could decide on the issue for the whole country.
CNN reported earlier this month on the surge of threats directed at public officials this year including a recent burst of threats targeting some GOP holdouts in the failed effort to award far-right Rep. Jim Jordan the House speakership, another surrounding Trump’s indictments, and yet another targeting progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar – who has been historically critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians – following the outbreak of the war between Hamas and Israel.
Federal law enforcement officials have been wary of being caught flatfooted by the potential for online rhetoric to translate to real-world violence ever since the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot that left multiple people dead. Before the insurrection, rioters “essentially planned [the attack] in plain sight on social media,” but the FBI and Department of Homeland Security failed to snuff out the threat, according to a Senate report released in June.
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