President Trump deployed his Stalinist anti-media rhetoric early Thursday morning in a typically hysterical tweet:
If Trump scans the headlines, he’ll likely find that the term “enemy of the people” surfaces on another platform: An affidavit from FBI special agent Thomas M. Dalton. In plain and powerful language, the document narrates how Dalton documented the alleged crimes of one 68-year-old Robert D. Chain of Encino, Calif. Earlier this month, notes Dalton’s affidavit, Chain took a strong interest in the Boston Globe just as the newspaper on Aug. 10 urged a coordinated response among editorial pages across the country to Trump’s media attacks. Hundreds of news outlets eventually joined the effort, which culminated on Aug. 16.
As the affidavit alleges, a series of telephone threats against the Boston Globe coincided with this period. On Aug. 13, Chain allegedly phoned in this language, which is heavily edited in deference to The Post’s decency standards: “Hey, how’s your p—- smell today, nice and fresh? We are going to shoot you motherf—— in the head, you Boston Globe —-suckers. Shoot every f—ing one of you.”
On Aug. 16, Chain allegedly said this:
You’re the enemy of the people, and we’re going to kill every f—ing one of you. Hey, why don’t you call the F, why don’t you call Mueller, maybe he can help you out buddy. Still there f—–? Alright, why, you going to trace my call? What are you going to do motherf—–? You ain’t going to do s—. I’m going to shoot you in the f—— head later today, at 4 o’clock. Goodbye.
The upshot? Boston Globe employees were “scared,” and the Boston Police Department deployed to guard the building in which they work. Approximately 12 such threatening calls landed at the Boston Globe between Aug. 10 and Aug. 17, alleges the affidavit. In an additional call on Aug. 22, the caller was asked why he was calling. The answer, according to the affidavit, went like this:
Because you are the enemy of the people, and I want you to go f— yourself. As long as you keep attacking the president, the duly elected president of the United States, in the continuation of your treasonous and seditious acts, I will continue to threats, harass, and annoy the Boston Globe, owned by the New York Times, the other fake news.
A records check by the FBI revealed that Chain owns several firearms, including a 9mm carbine rifle purchased in May. According to a press release from the U.S. attorney’s office in the district of Massachusetts, Chain is charged with one count of “making threatening communications in interstate commerce.” On Thursday afternoon he’ll appear in a Los Angeles federal court and will be subsequently transferred to Boston.
“Fake news,” “enemy of the people” — there’s no real mystery where Chain got the lingo he allegedly used. So the question for Trump: Does the alleged use of your own rhetoric in this hateful and threatening context mean you will stop using it?
Whatever the answer to that question, the news out of the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston signals that New York Times columnist Bret Stephens was right to issue this warning: “Trump Will Have Blood on His Hands.”
UPDATE: Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory emailed the following thoughts to the Erik Wemple Blog:
1/ It remains to be seen what motivated this guy, but we do know what he said was vile and included obvious echos. He’s pretty much the point of why so many editorial boards from around the country came together on this initiative. The path from disagreement to vilification has become too short and too dangerous in too many ways. When it bleeds into threats, it puts it into a whole different and entirely unacceptable place.
2/ I’m really grateful to the FBI, US Attorney, and BPD, and really proud of the Globe.