For extremism researchers, the shooting death this week of a Utah man who was alleged to have made violent threats against President Biden and other public officials highlights a concerning trend. For years, they have watched a steady escalation in violent political rhetoric that appears to be fueling acts of real-life violence.
On Wednesday, the FBI shot and killed Craig Robertson of Provo, Utah as they attempted to arrest him due to his alleged threats ahead of a visit to Utah by Biden. Federal charges against the 75-year-old laid out a history of violent social media posts, not just about the president, but also a range of Democratic politicians and officials, including New York State Attorney General Letitia James, Vice President Harris, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Robertson has been on the FBI’s radar since March, based on a tip from a social media platform, reportedly Truth Social, the company backed by former President Donald Trump. He allegedly posted direct language about his dream to “eradicate” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, before Bragg’s office indicted Trump.
Many of Robertson’s alleged posts contained specific locations, graphic descriptions of imagining watching his targets die and photographs of firearms he appeared to have access to. The word ‘assasination’ [sic] appears repeatedly and the guns are referred to as “Democrat eradication tools.”
Those kinds of details hit a trip wire for federal officials, says Seamus Hughes, a senior researcher at the National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology and Education Center located at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Hughes has tracked the number of federal arrests over threats to public officials over the last decade. In 2013, there were 38 such arrests — last year, there were 74. The trend began to escalate within the last five years. [Continue reading…]