On Friday, authorities arrested a Texas man who allegedly issued election-related death threats to government officials in Georgia following then-President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss. The arrest of Chad Stark, 54, marked the first charges filed by the Justice Department’s newly created Election Threats Task Force.
Stark is accused of posting a message on Craigslist on Jan. 5, 2021, calling for “Georgia Patriots” to "spill blood" and "make examples" of at least three officials whose names the Justice Department redacted in its announcement of his arrest.
“It’s time to invoke our Second Amendment right it’s time to put a bullet in the treasonous Chinese [Official A]," Stark allegedly wrote, adding: "Then we work our way down to [Official B] the local and federal corrupt judges."
"We need to pay a visit to [Official C] and her family as well and put a bullet her behind the ears," Stark wrote, according to the indictment.
Trump's rhetoric leading up to and after his election loss helped stoke violence against election officials in Georgia and across the country by spreading baseless conspiracy theories about voter fraud. His call in January 2021 requesting Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger help him “find” enough votes to illegally overturn Joe Biden’s victory is under investigation by the Fulton County District Attorney's Office. In that call and ever since, Trump has targeted Raffensperger and election workers in Georgia with false allegations they were personally involved in a plot to “steal” the election from him.
Trump singled out one election worker, a Black woman named Ruby Freeman, 18 times during his call with Raffensperger. Invoking a disproven conspiracy theory pushed by conservative media, Trump referred to Freeman as “a professional vote scammer" and a "hustler.”
Fellow conspiracy theorists have followed his lead and targeted Freeman with harassment and death threats. It's unclear whether Freeman was one of the election workers named in Stark's post.
“The Justice Department has a responsibility not only to protect the right to vote, but also to protect those who administer our voting systems from violence and illegal threats of violence,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Friday. He announced plans to create the specialized task force in June following the wave of violent threats toward 2020 election workers.
Garland and the Justice Department have received ample criticism for their seemingly lax approach to prosecuting violent attackers who target election officials, including many of the Jan. 6 rioters.
Friday’s arrest spurred by the Justice Department's new task force — again, the first of its kind — is welcome news. But it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the anti-democratic threats election officials in America are experiencing far and wide.
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