President Trump’s ceaseless war on the American free press took a deeply disturbing turn today, throwing into sharp relief the very real risks his combative, anti-free speech rhetoric poses to our democracy.
The Justice Department has released a statement, revealing that the FBI has arrested a man for allegedly making violent threats against The Boston Globe. 68-year-old Robert Chain of Encino, California is accused of threatening the Globe after the newspaper announced its plans to publish coordinated editorials critical of the president’s attacks on the press.
Chain is accused of placing 14 threatening phone calls in August 2018, during which he called the Globe “the enemy of the people” and threatened to murder employees of the newspaper. It, of course, bears pointing out that “enemy of the people” is an exact phrase Trump has used in the past to refer to publications that run unflattering stories about him.
I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. pic.twitter.com/YHfYWwZ0pP
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) August 30, 2018
The DOJ’s statement alleges that on August 16th, 2018 — the day the editorial response ran in in the paper— Chain called with a more specific threat and promised to shoot Globe workers in their heads “later today, at 4 o’clock.” Local law enforcement officers were stationed at the newspaper’s building in response.
Chain also used homophobic language and made disparaging remarks about Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
NBC News: According to the criminal complaint Chain threatened to travel to The Boston Globe and kill newspaper employees.
Here's what the FBI says is a transcript of one of his recorded calls: pic.twitter.com/XDNu2rDTSE
— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) August 30, 2018
The DOJ statement also included statements from law enforcement agents involved in the case.
“Anyone – regardless of political affiliation – who puts others in fear for their lives will be prosecuted by this office. In a time of increasing political polarization, and amid the increasing incidence of mass shootings, members of the public must police their own political rhetoric. Or we will,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said.
Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division, Harold H. Shaw had firm words about the incident.
“Everyone has a right to express their opinion, but threatening to kill people, takes it over the line and will not be tolerated. Today’s arrest of Robert Chain should serve a warning to others, that making threats is not a prank, it’s a federal crime,” Said Shaw.
“All threats are taken seriously, as we never know if the subject behind the threat intends to follow through with their actions. Whether potentially hoax or not, each and every threat will be aggressively run to ground. These investigations are expensive and are costly to the taxpayers, can put innocent people at risk, divert law enforcement from responding to actual emergencies, and cause undue stress to victims,” Shaw continued.
“I commend the great work of the Boston and Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Forces for their diligence and professionalism, and continue to seek the public’s support to immediately report threats or suspicious activity to law enforcement,” he added.
It cannot be stressed how unsafe and abnormal this story is. The most powerful man in the world is regularly railing against the “deep state” and “fake news” and as a result, the most paranoid, unhinged elements of our society feel compelled to take violent action. It’s frightening to think how this trend might eventually end in tragedy. If it does, President Trump bears direct responsibility.