“Lock and load” was one of the top comments Monday night in an online forum dedicated to former President Donald Trump, immediately after it emerged that his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago had been searched by the FBI.
Other posts were more blunt, “I’ll just say it. [Attorney General Merrick] Garland needs to be killed. Simple as that.” Another user wrote, “kill all federations.
Users encouraged others to post the address of the judge they believed signed the search warrant. “I see a rope around his neck” is written in the comment under the picture of the judge.
In the same forum, researchers previously found discussions about violence and how to attack police officers in the weeks leading up to the January 6, 2021 attack.
Among the users on the forum was the convicted rioter of the US Capitol on Monday night.
One response to the top-rated “lock and load” post came from an account with the username bananaguard62 and asked, “Aren’t we in a cold civil war right now?” asked the question.
Scrolling through Bananaguard62’s posts, Advance Democracy, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that conducts public interest research, discovered that the account was run by Tyler Welsh Slaeker.
Slaeker was indicted by the Justice Department last summer in connection with the January 6 attack. According to court documents, Slaeker’s mother-in-law tipped off the FBI about his presence at the Capitol, making him one of the Jan. 6 rioters turned in by family members.
He was originally charged with four nonviolent counts and pleaded guilty in June to entering a restricted building. His sentencing is scheduled for November.
NBC News first reported Advance Democracy’s findings about Slaeker. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Distinguishing between idle and serious threats of violence online can be difficult, but it cannot be ignored, said Daniel J. Jones, a former US Senate investigator who led an investigation into the CIA’s use of torture and now directs Advance Democracy. -a non-partisan, non-profit organization that conducts public interest research.
“We see conspiracist rhetoric from elected officials, political leaders and political entertainers fueling real-world calls for violence,” Jones said. “Conspiracy and divisive rhetoric by elected officials and others who should know better continue to undermine our institutions and democracy at an alarming rate.”
A congressional security official told CNN that shortly after news of the search warrant broke Monday night, the U.S. Capitol Police began discussions about monitoring and planning for potentially violent rhetoric.
A security official said the possibility of violence targeting members of Congress or other federal law enforcement agencies is of particular concern.
Capitol police declined to comment on security plans.
CNN found a post calling for violence against FBI agents. The FBI declined to comment on the article or broader security concerns because of the violent rhetoric.
Alternative social media platforms have become more popular among Trump supporters after companies like Facebook and Twitter banned Trump and some other prominent figures who spread election conspiracy theories after the January 6 attack.
These platforms, like Trump’s own Truth Social site, present themselves as bastions of free speech with looser rules and moderation. But this can result in the spread of violent rhetoric. CNN reported in June how threats against members of the Jan. 6 House Select Committee were circulating on these platforms.
But the talk of violence is no longer confined to fringe platforms.
On Monday, there was a surge in tweets about the “civil war” — at some points more than one tweet per second, according to a CNN review of data from Dataminr, a service that tracks Twitter activity. While some of the words from “Civil War” came from Trump’s critics, he expressed fear of what his supporters might do — one the researcher posted many screenshots Twitter accounts are openly calling for civil war.
Jones, whose group Democracy Forward has been monitoring online threats since Monday’s FBI raid, said political leaders appearing on major social media accounts have fueled more violent rhetoric.
“The attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 showed that we cannot ignore calls for political violence online — no matter how far-fetched the theories behind those calls,” Jones said.
The biography, contact information and office address of a federal magistrate judge in Florida have been removed from the court’s website amid right-wing backlash over an FBI search.
A magistrate judge has been identified by some media outlets as the judge who approved the FBI warrant. CNN has not independently confirmed that he is the judge in question and is not naming him at this time.
Records reviewed by CNN show that a webpage containing the judge’s information was removed from the official website of the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
Reached for comment Tuesday, court officials did not say why the judge’s website was taken down. CNN has reached out to the FBI, the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department and the US Marshals Service for comment.
On Tuesday, there were calls to publish the judge’s home address on pro-Trump social media sites, according to Ben Decker, CEO of Memetica, a threat analysis company.
Decker has seen a “massive increase” in threats targeting the judge since Monday, including one he told CNN that “played a prominent role up until January 6” on message boards.
In the federal court system, magistrate judges often deal with procedural matters before cases are assigned to a district judge, a more prominent position that requires presidential appointment and Senate confirmation.
Magistrate judges differ from US district judges, who are appointed by presidents and confirmed by the Senate. Magistrate judges, although they do not have all the powers of a district judge, perform duties such as issuing search warrants and conducting preliminary proceedings in criminal cases.
This story has been updated with additional details.