Horrifying Threats Against the Courts Hearing the Trump Cases Shock the Nation
It’s a mistake for the 45th president to fail to dissociate himself from this kind of attempted intimidation.
It’s a terrible mistake, in our view, for President Trump to fail to dissociate himself from the kinds of threats and intimidation that are being made against grand jurors and even a United States judge that have heard, or will be hearing, the cases against him. His own tirades are bad enough. There is, though, far worse from others being reported now that the authorities are closing in on the former president. The kinds of threats being made are horrifying.
One involves a Texas woman, Abigail Jo Shry. She rang up the federal courthouse at the Columbia District, the AP reports, to threaten Judge Tanya Chutkan. Her Honor is presiding over the January 6 case brought against Mr. Trump by Special Counsel Jack Smith. “You are in our sights, we want to kill you,” prosecutors allege Ms. Shry warned. “If Trump doesn’t get elected in 2024,” she added, “we are coming to kill you.” Ms. Shry has since been jailed.
It’s not clear what prompted Ms. Shry to threaten Judge Chutkan, but it can’t have helped that Mr. Trump has made critical remarks of his own about the jurist. He’s assailed her as “highly partisan” and “VERY BIASED & UNFAIR.” Mr. Trump’s tirade appears to be based, in part, on critical comments Judge Chutkan made when sentencing another January 6 defendant. Mr. Trump threatened that he would be “coming after” those who “go after” him.
Federal prosecutors noted Mr. Trump’s comments in seeking a protective order, limiting the former president’s access to evidence, because they contend his improper sharing of it could have a “harmful chilling effect on witnesses.” Judge Chutkan advised Mr. Trump’s lawyers that his legal defense should be conducted in court and “not on the internet.” Not that anti-Trump activists are so confining themselves.
On the heels of the threat against Judge Chutkan, the Hill reports there has been a wave of “threats and a profusion of racist comments online” directed toward the grand jurors in Georgia. This after they voted to hand up the indictment against Mr. Trump and 18 of his allies for a “criminal enterprise” to overturn Georgia’s election results in 2020. As required by Peachtree State law, the names of the jurors had been released to the public.
“Everyone on that jury should be hung,” a user wrote on what the Hill calls “a right-wing online forum.” One site put up the grand jurors’ addresses. “MAGAs posting the grand jurors addresses online,” a user on Mr. Trump’s Truth Social said. “I see a swift bullet to the head if, and when, somebody shows up at their homes.” A Twitter user posted a photo of a juror’s car, noting: “nice car you have there … hate to see something happen to it.”
We understand that threats are not confined to the right. “When the right-wing media ecosystem focuses on a target, online rhetoric quickly devolves into threats of violence,” a George Washington University extremism researcher, Jon Lewis, tells the Hill. Yet in recent years, some of the most ominous threats against judges — including on the Supreme Court — have come from the left, even from persons in Congress.
Justice Samuel Alito recently described the leak of the draft ruling overturning Roe v. Wade as an effort “to intimidate the court.” He contended that the conservative justices “were really targets of assassination.” We noted with concern the silence on the left after Senator Schumer in 2020 threatened a justice. “I want to tell you, Kavanaugh,” Mr. Schumer shouted. “You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price.”
Mr. Schumer suggests he meant a political whirlwind, though it’s hard to imagine everyone taking it that way. “There’s this thing called free speech,” Senator Hirono quipped amid concerns about protests outside justices’ homes after the leak. Soon enough, though, an armed man was arrested outside Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house. Justice Alito says the threat is such that “I’m not really supposed to go anyplace by myself.”
It’s not our aim here to answer with “what-about-isms.” What we’re marking here is the shocking nature of the threats being made against those who have been hearing or will be hearing the Trump cases. We’ve been decrying for months the violations of due process in these cases. The venue for addressing such abuses, though, is the courts and the political arena. Threats of violence and intimidation can only hurt the cause of Mr. Trump and his voters.