Federal law enforcement officers arrested a man in California on Thursday after he made repeated threats of violence against the Boston Globe newspaper this month, which included echoing the catchphrase popularized by President Trump that the news media are “the enemy of the people,” officials said.
Robert D. Chain, 68, of Encino, a neighborhood in Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley, was charged with one count of making threatening communications in interstate commerce, which comes with a potential penalty of as many as five years in prison. Chain made at least 14 threatening phone calls to the Globe beginning Aug. 10, the FBI said in a statement, after the Globe announced that it was organizing a campaign for newspapers to respond collectively to Trump's repeated attempts to demonize the media.
“Anyone — regardless of political affiliation — who puts others in fear for their lives will be prosecuted by this office,” Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney in Massachusetts, said in a statement. “In a time of increasing political polarization, and amid the increasing incidence of mass shootings, members of the public must police their own political rhetoric. Or we will.”
Harold H. Shaw, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston division, said that “making threats is not a prank, it's a federal crime."
Officials said that Chain began making threatening calls to the newsroom immediately after the Globe's announcement, calling the Globe “the enemy of the people,” lambasting “fake news” and threatening to kill its employees. Many of the calls Chain made to the newspaper were recorded, the criminal complaint alleges. The majority came from a blocked number that officials said they traced to his home after they secured phone records from Verizon.
On Aug. 13, he said over the phone, “We are going to shoot you . . . in the head,” using multiple expletives. “Shoot every . . . one of you.” And after the Globe published the coordinated editorial response, in concert with dozens of other news organizations Aug. 16, he threatened to shoot Globe staff in the head “later today, at 4 o'clock,” the FBI said.
"You're the enemy of the people, and we're going to kill every f---ing one of you,” he said according to the complaint. “Hey, why don't you call the F, why don't you call Mueller, maybe he can help you out buddy.”
Chain was ordered released on a $50,000 bond in federal court in Los Angeles on Thursday over the objections of prosecutors, the Courthouse News Service reported. As the outlet described:
While waiting to be called before Magistrate Judge Paul Abrams, 68-year-old Robert Chain sat in a chair flanked by U.S marshalls, arms crossed and repeatedly tilting his head down into his hands.
His long black hair, magenta-colored at the edges, draped over his turquoise shirt. A push broom mustache animated his tired expression.
Courthouse News Service
Officials said that Chain owns several firearms, including a rifle he purchased in May: prosecutors said that officials found 20 guns when they arrested him on Thursday, the News Service reported.
Chain's attorney, Andre Townsend, said that his client had no criminal record and hadn't traveled out of the country since the 1980s, the outlet reported. As part of the conditions of his release, he had to surrender his passport, register to be supervised and agree to drug and mental-health testing.
After the Boston Globe received the threats, it reported the threats to law enforcement and stepped up its internal security protocols, the complaint said. On Aug. 22, a Globe employee asked Chain why he was calling, the complaint said.
"Because you are the enemy of the people,” Chain responded, saying he was motivated to attack the media because of the way they covered Trump.
The case is the latest example of Trump's vitriolic language reverberating into the potential for violence. For some, Trump's name has been used to jeer at racial minorities. As his presidency continues to face peril from a seemingly never-ending litany of scandals and legal issues, including the ongoing special counsel's investigation into whether his campaign coordinated with Russia's efforts to disrupt the 2016 election, Trump has ratcheted up his long-running attacks on the news media by calling them the “enemy of the people.” The White House did not respond to a request for comment.