A 49-year-old man was arrested in Florida on federal charges for threatening to kill multiple Democrats in Congress.
John Kless called the offices of Democratic Reps. Eric Swalwell and Rashida Tlaib, as well as Sen. Cory Booker, on Tuesday and left voicemails threatening to kill them, according to an affidavit filed in the Southern District of Florida. The voicemails were laced with racist and homophobic remarks, many of which were apparently made in reference to comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar.
“You know what, she’s lucky she’s just getting death threats bitch,” the message to Tlaib allegedly stated in reference to the numerous threats made against Omar in recent days.
The calls were made four days after President Trump tweeted a video juxtaposing a portion of recent remarks from Omar commenting on 9/11 with images of the twin towers in flames.
Omar was speaking at an event sponsored by the Council on American–Islamic Relations in March when she said the organization “was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” (CAIR was actually founded in 1994.)
Trump’s video excerpted the portion of Omar’s remarks in which she says “some people did something” to accuse her of dismissing the attack.
Jeremy Slevin, a spokesperson for Omar, told the New York Times that their office has seen an increase in threats, as well as menacing tweets and accusations of treason, following the video.
The transcripts of Kless’s calls also make reference to guns, welfare, and illegal immigration.
“Y’all motherfuckers don’t give a fuck about 9/11, or all the illegals coming in, or all the niggers on fucking welfare, but all you fucking care about is taking guns,” reads the transcript of the call to Swalwell, who is currently running for president.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Swalwell said his goal is to make changes to gun laws through the democratic process.
“There should be a respectful debate on this issue,” he said. “But threatening violence is the lowest form of communication and has no place in our community. Further, if your response to a lawmaker proposing to make it harder for dangerous people to get dangerous weapons is to threaten to kill that lawmaker, you have proven exactly why we need more restrictions on firearm possession.”
Kless also made “profane/harassing” calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in February, referencing similar topics, along with abortion and Muslims in Congress, according to the affidavit.
Capitol police officials pursued the investigation into the calls in part because Tlaib was due to speak in Florida this weekend. Her office declined to comment on whether that event would proceed as planned.
Kless was released on bond and is due to be arraigned May 3.
He is the second man to be arrested this month on charges related to threats against Omar. Another man, Pat Carlineo, was arrested in New York after calling her office and saying, “I’ll put a bullet in her fucking skull.”
Pelosi has reportedly requested a review of security arrangements for Omar. A spokesperson declined to comment on whether the speaker would pursue additional security changes for Omar or any of the other House members involved.
Booker and Omar did not immediately respond to requests for comment.