Above: Screenshots of public officials targeted on the Enemies of the People website
In the weeks since the 2020 presidential election, public officials and election workers nationwide have come under attack. Targets include officials who have verified and stood by their state’s election results and those who have implemented new pandemic-related restrictions. These officials have received death threats, as well as visits to their private residences and harassment online and by phone. We have seen extremist and mainstream voices alike calling for violence, making baseless claims about election fraud and spreading pandemic conspiracies and escalating the potential for violent action.
A summer of protests and anger over the first round of pandemic-related restrictions and the rise of QAnon conspiracies served as a prelude to the current wave of animosity directed at elected officials. The country is witnessing the widespread proliferation and acceptance of two conspiratorial information streams: the election is being stolen from Donald Trump, and elites are using the coronavirus pandemic to enslave humanity and destroy America.
In early December, a website called “Enemies of the People” listed public officials and employees of Dominion Voting Systems who, according to the site, “have aided and abetted the fraudulent election against Trump.” The website includes images of the individuals superimposed with crosshairs (as if seen through a firearm’s scope), their alleged infraction(s) against Trump and in many cases their personal email and home addresses. The site urges visitors to provide information on any “new target and share it on our social media.”
Examples of recent harassment of public officials include:
- Idaho, December: On December 8, a protest organized by People’s Rights—a network of right-wing activists founded by anti-government extremist Ammon Bundy—Idaho’s Central District Health Board’s virtual meeting, where members were to vote on a local mask mandate. Citing safety concerns, the board canceled the meeting as protesters gathered outside the homes and offices of staff and board members. One person was arrested for trespassing and other arrests may follow.
- Michigan, December: In the late evening of December 5, roughly two dozen protesters, some carrying weapons, gathered at the home of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Shouting obscenities into megaphones, the group protested the certification of the election and demanded a forensic audit.
- Michigan, December: Cynthia Johnson, a Michigan state Representative, received dozens of racist and threatening voicemails after a December 2 U.S. House oversight committee hearing featuring Rudy Giuliani and others who argued without evidence that the state’s election results were fraudulent.
- Pennsylvania, December: Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt and his staff have received multiple death threats and other forms of harassment since he defended the results of the Philadelphia vote count. The threats and other forms of harassment began after Trump and some of his campaign surrogates publicly identified Schmidt and other members of his staff.
- Colorado, December: Security director for Dominion Voting Systems Eric Coomer went into hiding after receiving death threats. The harassment of Coomer and his family has included phone calls, text messages, handwritten letters and the posting of their personal information online.
- Georgia, December: Following his certification of Georgia’s election results, horn-honking Trump supporters have repeatedly driven past Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s home, intruders have been found on his property and his wife has received obscene threats on her cellphone.
- Georgia, December: An elections technician was doxed, received death threats and his family was reportedly harassed after a video circulated that falsely claimed he manipulated election data.
- Arizona, November: Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, one of Arizona’s top election officials, has reported multiple threats of violence against her home, family and office. In November, 12News reported that law enforcement officials were investigating a threat to kill Hobbs and her family. The threat and Hobbs’ home address and other personal information were posted on the social media site Parler. On one occasion, protesters gathered outside Hobbs’ home chanting “We are watching you.”
- Washington D.C., November: Christopher Krebs, a former DHS cybersecurity official, was “bombarded” with threats after Joe diGenova, an attorney for the Trump campaign, stated that Krebs “should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot” during a November 30 appearance on Newsmax TV’s Howie Carr Show.
- Ohio, October: The Ohio State Patrol is investigating an alleged plot to kidnap and arrest Ohio Governor Mike DeWine at his home in Cedarville. A Piqua man reportedly told police that Renea Turner, a 2018 write-in candidate for Ohio Governor, asked him to participate in a plot to arrest DeWine and place him on trial for “tyranny.” Turner, who claimed in late October to have taken over Dewine’s role as governor, denies the plot and any desire to harm DeWine.
These threats appear to be the byproduct, at least in part, of the inflammatory rhetoric espoused by a wide array of Trump supporters. Some of this speech has openly called for violence. Examples include:
- Ron Watkins, the former administrator of 8kun, has been fueling false voter fraud conspiracy theories, particularly those related to Dominion Voting Systems. He has not only been instrumental in shaping and promoting the unfounded allegations of election fraud in Georgia that have taken root within the QAnon community, but also actively organized monitoring of election facilities.
- On December 7, 2020, the Arizona Republican Party retweeted a post from right-wing activist and Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander that read, “I’m willing to give my life for this fight.” The ARP added to the tweet: “He is. Are you?”
- During a December episode of the “The Dilley Show,” MAGA supporter Brenden Dilley declared that Trump is not going anywhere because those that voted for Trump “are more than prepared to do everything, and I mean fucking everything, to preserve our constitutional republic and to protect our president.”
- In a November 28 tweet, Lin Wood, a pro-Trump lawyer, encouraged the harassment of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger by posting a video of Trump caravans honking their horns outside Raffensperger’s home. He also wrote, “Brad Raffensperger needs to come out of his basement to explain Dominion voting machine purchase and backroom deal with Hillary’s law firm on absentee ballots. Keep blowing those horns!”
- On the November 18 edition of InfoWars’ Alex Jones Show, guest host Owen Shroyer stated that Democrats and mainstream media “deserve” mass violence if Trump is not allowed to continue as president.
- During a November 5 podcast, former senior White House advisor Steve Bannon called for the beheading of chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
As we have seen, extremist and mainstream voices are both calling for violence, increasing the potential for dangerous activity. These plots illustrate that threat:
- New York, November: Federal agents with New York’s Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested Brian Maiorana of Staten Island charging him with making threatening interstate communications. According to the criminal complaint, Maiorana used social media accounts to threaten violence against Democratic politicians, law enforcement officers and social justice protestors.
- Pennsylvania, November: Philadelphia police arrested two men, Antonio Lamotta and Joshua Macias, both from Virginia, thwarting a possible attack targeting the vote-counting operation at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
- Michigan, October: Federal and state authorities in Michigan arrested 14 men associated with a militia cell called the Wolverine Watchmen on charges related to an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, specifically based on pandemic-related restrictions. Six face federal charges stemming from the case while the remaining eight face state charges. According to an FBI agent's testimony, the militia also discussed kidnapping Virginia Governor Ralph Northham during a June meeting in Ohio.
- Missouri, March: White supremacist Timothy Wilson plotted to blow up a hospital in the Kansas City area with Covid-19 patients in an attempt to cause mass casualties. He was killed in a shootout with the FBI as they attempted to arrest him.