Violent rhetoric circulates pro-Trump internet following FBI raid, including judge



“Lock and load,” was one of the top comments on an online forum dedicated to former President Donald Trump on Monday night, shortly after it emerged his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort had been searched by the FBI.

Other messages were more explicit: “I’m just going to say it. [Attorney General Merrick] Garland must be murdered. Simple as that.” Another user posted, “kill all feds.”

Users also encouraged others to post the address of the investigating judge they believe signed the search warrant. “I see a rope around his neck,” read a comment below a photo of the judge.

On the same forum, researchers have already found discussions of violence and discussions of how to attack police officers in the weeks leading up to the January 6, 2021 attack.

Among the forum users on Monday evening was a convicted rioter from the United States Capitol.

A reply to the top rated “lock and load” post came from an account with the username bananaguard62 and asked “Aren’t we in a cold civil war at this point?”

While combing through messages from bananaguard62, Advance Democracy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that conducts public interest investigations, identified Tyler Welsh Slaeker as responsible for the account.

Slaeker was charged by the Justice Department last summer in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Slaeker’s in-laws informed the FBI of his presence at the Capitol, according to court documents, making him one of several Jan. 6 rioters who were reported by family members.

He was initially charged with four non-violent misdemeanors and pleaded guilty in June to one count of entering a restricted building. His sentencing is scheduled for November.

NBC News was first to report Advance Democracy’s findings on Slaeker. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It can be difficult to distinguish between empty and serious threats of violence online, but it can’t be ignored, said Daniel J. Jones, a former US Senate investigator who led the investigation into the use of torture by the CIA and now runs Advance Democracy, a nonprofit nonprofit partisan organization that conducts public interest investigations.

“We are seeing conspiratorial rhetoric from elected officials, political leaders and political performers fueling calls for violence in the real world,” Jones said. “The conspiratorial and divisive rhetoric – from elected officials and others who should know better – continues to undermine our institutions and our democracy at an alarming rate.”

A congressional security official told CNN shortly after the search warrant was announced on Monday night, US Capitol police began discussions about monitoring and planning for potential violent rhetoric.

Of particular concern is the potential for violence directed at members of Congress or other federal law enforcement, the security official said.

Capitol police declined to comment on security plans.

A post found by CNN called for violence against FBI agents. The FBI declined to comment on the release or broader security concerns due to harsh rhetoric.

After the Jan. 6 attack, alternative social media platforms grew more popular among Trump supporters after companies like Facebook and Twitter banned Trump and other prominent figures who spread election conspiracy theories.

These platforms, like Trump’s own Truth Social site, present themselves as bastions of free speech, with looser rules and moderation. But this can lead to the proliferation of violent rhetoric. CNN reported in June how threats against members of the Jan. 6 House Select Committee had circulated on those platforms.

But talking about violence isn’t exclusive to more fringe platforms.

There was an increase in tweets on Monday mentioning the “Civil War” – at times, more than a tweet per second, according to a CNN review of data from Dataminr, a service that tracks Twitter activity. While some mentions of “civil war” have come from critics of Trump expressing fear of what his supporters might do – a the researcher posted several screenshots of Twitter accounts outright calling for civil war.

Jones, whose Advance Democracy group has been monitoring online threats since Monday’s FBI raid, said political leaders posting to their main social media accounts were fueling more violent rhetoric.

“The attack on the Capitol on January 6 showed that we cannot ignore calls for political violence online — no matter how fringe the theories behind those calls for violence are,” Jones said.

A Florida federal magistrate’s biography, along with his contact information and office address, has been removed from the court’s website amid right-wing backlash to the FBI’s search.

The magistrate was identified by some media as the judge who approved the FBI warrant. CNN has not independently confirmed that this is the judge in question and is not naming him at this time.

Records reviewed by CNN show that the webpage containing the judge’s information was removed from the official website of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.

Contacted for comment on Tuesday, court officials did not explain why the judge’s webpage was taken down. CNN has requested comment from the FBI, the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department and the US Marshals Service.

On Tuesday, there were calls on pro-Trump social media sites for the judge’s home address to be released, according to Ben Decker, the CEO of Memetica, a threat analysis firm.

Decker has seen a “massive increase” in threats against the judge since Monday, including, he told CNN, on message boards “which played a notable role in the build-up to Jan. 6.”

In the federal court system, magistrate judges often deal with procedural matters before cases are assigned to a district judge, which is a much more senior position and requires presidential nomination and Senate confirmation.

Judge magistrates differ from U.S. district judges who are appointed by presidents and confirmed by the Senate. Justices of the peace handle tasks such as authorizing search warrants and conducting preliminary proceedings in a criminal case, although they do not have all the powers of a district judge.

This story has been updated with additional details.


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