Court Security

When Trump criticizes judges online, calls for violence follow, analysis shows

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Former President Donald Trump is seen arriving April 4, 2023, at the New York City Criminal Court to be arraigned on charges related to a hush-money payment to an adult film actress during his 2016 presidential campaign. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA via the Associated Press)

Since March 1, at least 152 posts on three websites supportive of former President Donald Trump have called for violence against judges handling his high-profile cases, according to an analysis by Reuters.

Reuters included some examples, posted after Trump alleged on Truth Social, his social media platform, that Judge Juan Merchan, the New York judge handling his hush-money election-interference trial, was “highly conflicted” and ran a “kangaroo court.”

One person who commented on Trump’s April 23 post wrote that “treason is a hangable offense.” Another proclaimed that judges hearing Trump cases “should all be executed.”

That post and the responses by Trump’s followers “illustrate the incendiary impact of his angry and incessant broadsides” against judges, according to Reuters.

“As his presidential campaign intensifies, Trump has baselessly cast the judges and prosecutors in his trials as corrupt puppets of the Biden administration, bent on torpedoing his White House bid.”

Trump has attacked judges handling his cases in at least 129 posts on Truth Social between March 1 and April 30, according to Reuters’ count.

The 152 posts calling for violence were among hundreds of posts reviewed by Reuters “that used hostile, menacing and, in some cases, racist or sexualized language to attack the judges,” the publication reports.

The posts supporting violence stop short of stating that the poster will be carrying it out.

“Such language is usually defensible as constitutionally protected free speech,” Reuters reports. “But experts say it can have the same effect as a direct threat: to intimidate and sow fear.”

The three websites reviewed by Reuters were Truth Social; the Gateway Pundit, a website influential in the pro-Trump community; and Patriots.Win, an online forum that describes itself as Trump’s “community of choice.” A Truth Social spokesperson told Reuters that the website “works expeditiously” to remove posts that violate its standards, including a ban on advocating, inciting, encouraging or threatening physical harm to another.

There were indications on all three websites that some comments had been removed, but most comments supporting violence remained live for days or weeks.

Reuters also reviewed websites catering to liberals and found “dozens of hostile comments attacking the competence and credibility of conservative jurists.” On one website, commenters called U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon of the Southern District of Florida, the judge presiding in Trump’s classified-documents case, “corrupt” and said she should be tried for espionage. But violent language, including calls for the killing or beating of judges, did not appear on the liberal websites.

Reuters published its story as Bloomberg Law reported on efforts to bolster security for federal judges.

A half-dozen chief judges at federal trial courts told Bloomberg Law that they are increasing security training for judges and staff members, informing the judges about resources available for protection, and emphasizing the issue at staff meetings.

Chief U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw of the Southern District of California told Bloomberg Law that social media, the political environment and politicians who attack judges are part of the problem.

“There’s been a general politicization of the judiciary, and a characterization—I think, inaccurate—that judges are politicians in robes,” Sabraw said.

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