Another supporter of President Donald Trump has been arrested after death threats — this time against three Democratic lawmakers. In each of the voicemail threats, investigators say, the caller also viciously attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), just four days after the president posted 9/11 footage in a tweet targeting the Muslim congresswoman.
Floridian John Kless, 49, of the Fort Lauderdale area, was charged with interstate transmission of threats following calls to presidential candidates Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), as well as to Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
Kless left a message for Tlaib, who is Muslim, that said, “Tell your Taliban friend” — apparently meaning Omar — to “shut the fuck up about 9/11,” according to the complaint against him. This “ain’t Trump’s fault ... it’s all your people’s fault,” Kless allegedly added. “You definitely don’t tell our president, Donald Trump, what to say.”
Kless, who used racist slurs against Tlaib, Omar and Sen. Booker in the quotes cited by the complaint, told Tlaib about Omar: “I’d like to take that bitch [and] throw her right off the Empire State Building.”
He also told Booker: “We need to kill all you motherfuckers,” according to the complaint, which said he also defended white supremacist Alex Fields, who drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at a 2017 right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing Heather Heyer.
It was the second time in less than three weeks that a Trump supporter has been arrested for threatening a Muslim American lawmaker. Patrick Carlineo, 55, of upstate New York was arrested for allegedly threatening to “put a bullet” in Omar’s “skull.” Following the arrest, Trump mocked Omar in a speech before members of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
The federal complaint against Kless also quotes a message targeting Rep. Swalwell, who is running for president on a gun-safety platform, in which the caller warned that “the day you come after our guns ... is the day you’ll be dead.” The caller threatened to put Swalwell on his “deathbed ... along with all the rest of you Democrats,” adding that the American people were going to “war,” according to the complaint.
Swalwell issued a statement thanking Capitol Police for “protecting my staff and constituents.”
Kless was tracked down by investigators via his incoming cellphone number, according to the complaint. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
Kless made his initial appearance in court Friday. He was released on bond with a GPS monitor and a requirement that he stay away from guns and the people he threatened, according to the Miami Herald.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday that Trump’s “hateful” attack on Omar presented a “real danger” to the congresswoman. She said she was ordering Capitol Police to conduct a “security assessment” to ensure Omar’s safety after the president’s incendiary tweet about Omar’s 9/11 remarks.
In his tweet attacking Omar, Trump included a video snippet of Omar’s speech juxtaposed with footage of the planes flying into the World Trade Center. The implication was that Omar’s partial quote that “some people did something” on 9/11 dismissed the magnitude of the tragedy. But she was referring to the terrorist attack as she discussed discrimination that Muslims in America were facing in the aftermath.
Trump is ramping up his rhetoric again against the threat of Muslim international terrorism, but it’s domestic right-wing violence that has been surging in the nation in the last few years, according to FBI statistics. However, the Department of Homeland Security last month shut down its domestic terrorism intelligence unit.