By Lila Hassan, The TRACE, September 19, 2022
After the FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on August 9 as part of an investigation into the alleged mishandling of classified documents, right-wing candidates for state office across the country took to their fringe social media pages. They posted that the federal government needs to be reined in and even called for the FBI to be abolished.
Kari Lake, a gubernatorial candidate in Arizona who won the GOP primary in August after being endorsed by Trump, issued a statement on Telegram and TruthSocial, Trump’s new social media platform, calling the federal government “tyrants” and an “illegitimate, corrupt Regime” that hates America. “If we accept it, America is dead,” Lake wrote. “We will not accept it.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray called the surge in death threats to law enforcement “deplorable and dangerous.” Two days later, Ricky Shiffer, a 42-year-old Navy veteran, attempted to breach an FBI office in Cincinnati and was shot and killed by police after an hours-long standoff. Only four days after Shiffer’s attack in Cincinnati, NBC reported that a man in Pennsylvania was arrested for making threats against the FBI on the far-right social media site Gab.
GOP candidates in Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, among a slew of others, are major influencers in this fringe ecosystem. And they are making connections between the 2020 election — which they claim was stolen — Christian nationalism, and gun rights.
The Trace reviewed their campaign platforms, public appearances, posts on fringe websites and social media, analyzed engagement with their supporters, followed their newsletters, and closely tracked right-wing events and media. We found that their rhetoric mixes Christian nationalism with armed rebellion — presenting a threat that extremism experts do not take lightly.
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