Just weeks after a New York man was arrested for allegedly making death threats against Representative Ilhan Omar, another Trump supporter was arrested for leveling threats at prominent Democrats in voicemails rife with racist, homophobic, and misogynistic slurs. Federal prosecutors say that Florida’s John Kless left threatening phone messages for the offices of 2020 presidential candidates Representative Eric Swalwell and Senator Cory Booker, as well as Representative Rashida Tlaib. In all of the messages, Kless reportedly made Islamophobic references or threats to Representative Ilhan Omar.
Omar and Tlaib became the first Muslim women to serve in Congress upon their election last year. In his message to Tlaib, Klass allegedly referred to Omar as the Congresswoman’s “Taliban friend” and said that he’d like to “throw her right off the Empire State Building.”
"You won't fucking tell Americans what to say and you definitely don't tell our president, Donald Trump, what to say,” Kless allegedly said, seemingly referring to the criticism Trump has faced for amplifying Islamophobic attacks against Omar.
Last week, Trump posted a video to Twitter that included footage from a speech Omar gave to the Council on American-Islamic relations alongside video of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In her speech, Omar had referred to the Twin Towers attacks by saying that CAIR "recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” Conservatives accused Omar of minimizing the attacks with her use of the phrase “some people did something.” In the wake of Trump's tweet juxtaposing Omar’s remarks with footage of the attacks, the president was criticized for amplifying Islamophobia and furthering a political environment dangerous to Omar and all American Muslims.
Prosecutors say that aside from threatening Tlaib and Omar, Kless also left a message for Booker in which he called the Senator the n-word, and threatened that “government officials will be in the graves where [they] fucking belong.” He allegedly attacked Rep. Swalwell on the basis of his presidential campaign's anti-gun platform. “The day you come after our guns, motherfucker,” Kless said according to the federal complaint, “is the day you’ll be dead.” Kless was also investigated in February for allegedly making harassing calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Kless’s arrest marks the second time this month that a Trump supporter has been charged for threatening Congressional Democrats. Patrick Carlineo of New York was charged on April 5th with threatening to “put a bullet in [Omar’s] fucking skull.” The next day, Trump mocked Omar in a speech to the Republican Jewish coalition.
Carlineo’s threat and Trump’s attacks on Omar raised concerns for the Congresswoman’s safety. "Following the President’s tweet, I spoke with the Sergeant-at-Arms to ensure that Capitol Police are conducting a security assessment to safeguard Congresswoman Omar, her family and her staff," said Speaker Pelosi in a statement last week. "The President’s words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger."
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