In just the first 24 hours since the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday disqualifying former President Donald Trump from appearing on the state’s Republican primary ballot, social media platforms were awash in violent threats to the justices from the Rocky Mountain state. As reported by NBC News, the nonprofit research group Advance Democracy found “significant violent rhetoric” toward the justices and Democrats generally, “often in direct response to Trump’s posts about the ruling” on his Truth Social platform.
Those disturbing posts by Trump’s followers included justice’s office addresses, emails and phone numbers. These posts offer not only a glimpse of the current threat picture, but a foretelling of threats to come as this historic ruling inevitably rises to the U.S. Supreme Court for review. “This ends when we kill these f---ers,” said one post on a pro-Trump forum known to have been frequented by multiple Jan. 6 Capitol offenders.
“What do you call 7 justices from the Colorado Supreme Court at the bottom of the ocean?” queried another poster. “A good start.”
“Kill judges. Behead judges. Roundhouse kick a judge into the concrete,” instructed another user on an extremist site. “Slam dunk a judge’s baby into the trashcan.”
In case you’re wondering whether such posts were merely aspirational, other messages discussed precisely how to kill the justices and other supposed enemies, including using bombs, hollow-point ammunition, rifles and ropes.
Our nation’s threat level is already high with tangible concerns over how the Israel-Hamas war will inspire attacks. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued their latest elevated warning earlier this month about the vulnerability of large public gatherings this winter that might be viewed as soft targets. Now, with the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision, security concerns are even more heightened. Whether it’s the threat of lone actors inspired to action by the rhetoric of Hamas, Al Qaeda or the Islamic State terrorist group, as described by FBI Director Chris Wray, or it’s unstable MAGA minions responding to Trump and his allies, the threat of inspired terror is similar, and it’s already playing out.
This means that while the FBI and other law enforcement agencies at all levels are trying to protect our communities from violent gangs, organized crime, burglars, corrupt executives, spies and international terrorists, now they must divert even more precious resources to counter the threat to our court system posed by a man running for president. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security will need to work alongside state, county and local police to share intelligence gleaned from domestic extremist sites and sources and strategize on how best to secure judges, lawyers, plaintiffs and courthouses — not only in Colorado, but also in as many as 16 other states with pending cases challenging Trump’s qualification to be on their ballots. Petitioners in each of those cases, like the ones in Colorado who were six Republican and unaffiliated voters, will need to enhance their security, too.
These threats against the justices for simply doing the job we ask them to do — apply the law and the Constitution to the facts presented — aren’t happening in a vacuum. It starts with the former president. Trump’s the one who snares his followers in a vortex of delusion; he’s the one behind the dangerous notion that any ruling against him is a ruling against America. His immediate response to the Colorado decision was to post, “What a shame for our country” and calling it a “Sad day for America.”
Once again, the threat posed by Trump is aided and abetted by those who make their living fanning the flames of violence. On Wednesday, for example, Fox News host Jesse Watters displayed the names and photos of the four justices who ruled to disqualify Trump under a banner reading, “Meet the judges who hate democracy.” Between his prime-time broadcast and his network’s social media channels, Watters' risible message was shared with millions.
Any Trump-fueled threat depends on almost cartoonish lies, and the reaction to the Colorado case is no exception. Folks on the far right quickly cried foul by claiming that the justices who ruled against their guy were never elected by the people of Colorado. That’s just wrong. While that state’s justices are initially appointed by the governor, they (unlike, say, the Supreme Court) must subsequently run for election, and all four justices who ruled to disqualify Trump were elected by voters.
The threat posed by Trump’s response to these cases isn’t aimed only at people and property. It targets our justice system and our ability as a nation to preserve it. In the months ahead, adequately securing the courts and personnel involved in this myriad of election cases, and prosecuting those who make threats, might mean the difference between securing our future as a country of laws and letting it slip away.