FBI investigates threats to Colorado judges who disqualified Trump from 2024 ballots

FBI investigates threats to Colorado judges who disqualified Trump from 2024 ballots
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Federal law enforcement is working with police in Colorado to investigate alleged threats to state Supreme Court justices who found Donald Trump ineligible to appear on the state’s 2024 presidential ballots.

A ruling from Colorado’s highest court earlier this month determined that the former president is disqualified from the presidency under the 14th Amendment, which bars anyone who has sworn an oath to uphold the constitution and “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding public office.

The historic 4-3 ruling, the first among any state supreme court to consider the question of his eligibility, follows a wave of lawsuits seeking to block Mr Trump from next year’s presidential election ballots for his actions surrounding the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Mr Trump and his allies have unleashed a vitriolic campaign against the lawsuits and court rulings that followed, casting his mounting legal battles alongside his criminal indictments as part of an alleged Democratic conspiracy to keep him out of office.

On social media, Mr Trump’s supporters have echoed his attacks and rhetoric, fuelling reportedly credible threats against the judges, prosecutors and others involved in his cases, as well as their family members.

One post, on a far-right pro-Trump message board, read: “All f****** robed rats must f****** hang.”

The FBI is aware of threats made against Colorado Supreme Court justices and is working with local law enforcement, according to an agency spokesperson.

“We will vigorously pursue investigations of any threat or use of violence committed by someone who uses extremist views to justify their actions regardless of motivation,” FBI Public Affairs Officer Vikki Migoya said in a statement.

The Denver Police Department (DPD) said law enforcement responded to a court justice’s residence last week “on what appears to be a hoax report” and is continuing an investigation.

A DPD spokesperson also told Axios that officers are also “providing extra patrols around justice's residences” in response.

Posts on pro-Trump message boards and other social media platforms have sought justices’ personal information and addresses.

Online posts that appeared to threaten Colorado justices spread rapidly in the 24 hours after the court’s decision was announced, according to analysis by non-partisan public interest research group Advance Democracy reported by NBC News.

Social media threats included “significant violent rhetoric” against the justices and Democratic officials, often in direct response to Mr Trump’s posts about the ruling from his Truth Social platform, the report found.

It’s a familiar pattern that has followed Mr Trump’s indictments and courtroom challenges as he seeks the Republican nomination for president in 2024: his outrage fuels vague calls for civil war and violence among his supporters online, while law enforcement monitors threats of real-world action.

That pattern also is at the centre of criminal charges, gag orders and court documents surrounding his criminal and civil cases.

In court documents related to a gag order in his federal election interference case, prosecutors argued that Mr Trump relies on a “well-established practice of using his public platform to target his adversaries” with inflammatory, derogatory rhetoric aimed at his political rivals, the judges overseeing the cases against him and the prosecutors challenging him, as well as their family members.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team described that dynamic as “part of a pattern, stretching back years, in which people publicly targeted” by Mr Trump are “subject to harassment, threats, and intimidation.”

The former president “seeks to use this well-known dynamic to his advantage,” according to a filing from Mr Smith’s office, and “it has continued unabated as this case and other unrelated cases involving the defendant have progressed.”

In New York, state appellate court judges upheld a pair of gag orders in his civil fraud trial. A top security official had outlined a spike in credible death threats and abusive messages following Mr Trump’s attacks against the New York County Supreme Court judge overseeing the case as well as his chief clerk.

The threats against them are “serious and credible and not hypothetical or speculative,” the court official wrote in an affidavit that included several transcribed voicemails of threats directed at the court’s staff.

“The implementation of the limited gag orders resulted in a decrease in the number of threats, harassment, and disparaging messages that the judge and his staff received,” he wrote.

“However, when Mr Trump violated the gag orders, the number of threatening, harassing and disparaging messages increased.”