On Feb. 26, a man near Seattle sent an email from his Gmail account to five media outlets in which he stated, according to federal authorities, that he was planning to “personally” execute President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, “for his countless treasonous crimes.”
To the author of the message, Chase Bliss Colasurdo, the worst of Kushner’s wrongdoings — and one punishable by death — was being Jewish.
The next day, Colasurdo, 27, posted an image on Instagram of a hand pointing what appears to be a black handgun at a photograph of Kushner’s head. Another image uploaded the same day shows him holding what appears to be the same handgun. In the comments section, he gloated that he had “made a death threat” against Kushner and had “not been arrested yet.”
On March 4, Colasurdo again marveled at the impunity he enjoyed online. He posted a photograph of Donald Trump Jr., writing that he “would just like to let the secret service know” that he intended to execute the president’s eldest child.
“And there is nothing you can do about it,” he observed, “as indicated by the fact that I have been posting death threats against politicians for like a week and am still here posting.”
It was not until this week, on Wednesday, that authorities arrested Colasurdo on charges of making interstate threats. He made an initial appearance on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Seattle. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison and three years of supervised release.
On Instagram, where his threatening posts remained online even after his arrest, he identities himself as a mixed martial arts combatant and claims that his posts are “autistic fiction.” The photo-sharing site, which is owned by Facebook, didn’t immediately return a request for comment about whether his page, which was still visible as of early Friday, violated its community guidelines.
Asked why it took so long to arrest him, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Washington said Colasurdo was first contacted by law enforcement following a tip on March 16 from a member of the public. He was arrested once it became apparent that he was attempting to purchase a firearm, the spokeswoman, Emily Langlie, told The Washington Post.
In the intervening six weeks, according to an affidavit prepared by the FBI agent investigating the case, Colasurdo purchased, among other items, a bulletproof baseball cap, a bulletproof vest, a concealable gun holster for a Sig Sauer SP2022 handgun and six boxes containing 50 rounds of 9mm ammunition. He paid $549 for a semiautomatic pistol in April, but his online purchase was refused because he had been flagged in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
A search of his home turned up firearm magazines, a gas mask, a Nazi flag and a framed portrait of Adolf Hitler, among other combat equipment and anti-Semitic material. Colasurdo had been arrested on assault allegations in two occasions in 2015, and he told authorities who interviewed him in March that he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at that time.
His primary targets were Kushner and other members of the Trump family. He called the president an “impotent Jew slave,” appearing to share the view of Robert Bowers, the man accused of killing 11 congregants in a Pittsburgh synagogue in October, that Trump had undermined his own movement. Colasurdo shared a meme of Trump, his features exaggerated in an anti-Jewish caricature, using a leash to restrain a dog with the head of a man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
Colasurdo’s Instagram page offers a window into his hateful and paranoid worldview, poisoned not just by online conspiracy theories that blossom in unregulated parts of the Internet but also by overheated rhetoric emanating from more mainstream sources.
In a moment of deepening political divisions, lowering expectations and increasing hate crimes, Colasurdo’s social media rants offer a vivid illustration of how parts of American society have grown incensed and unbalanced — and determined to arm themselves. The case also contributes to growing questions about whether law enforcement is prepared to address a rising tide of white nationalism, as violent extremism, long blamed on foreign actors, intensifies domestically.
It’s not always possible to tell when Colasurdo was making serious threats and when he was seeking to participate in a far-right culture of inside jokes. So, too, it’s unclear when he may have been using drugs or experiencing mental instability, both of which he told authorities were commonplace.
The confusion only heightens the difficulty for law enforcement.
The 27-year-old is simultaneously being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department over allegations of cyberstalking and threatening to kill members of the media.
For months, he has been posing with what appeared to be weaponry, circulating far-right memes and issuing death threats to public figures. When authorities questioned him about his social media screeds in March, three days after the tip had come in, he claimed that someone had hacked his account. Asked if there would be more threatening posts, he promised law enforcement, “No.” And he walked free.
But there would be many more, including on the day after the police interview. Sometimes, there were dozens of threats a day, highlighting the use of social media to purvey hate at a time when companies are under pressure to police their platforms. Facebook moved on Thursday to ban numerous far-right and anti-Semitic figures.
Whether Colasurdo intended to act on his warnings, his Instagram sheds light on the origins of his violent ideology and impulses.
Colasurdo lifted ideas from 4chan, the anonymous message board, and other hazy corners of the Web, but also fixated on cable news and the grievances it stokes. His page is awash with CNN chyrons. On March 13, as Tucker Carlson battled critics over unflattering audio recordings unearthed by the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America, Colasurdo shared the Fox News host’s rejoinder that he was under attack by “the people who write our movies and our sitcoms.”
He posted an image of a story in the National Rifle Association’s American Rifleman magazine that placed the words “Target Practice” next to a photo of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and wrote, “Just kill the b----. she deserves it.”
Colasurdo also railed against the president’s Jewish advisers, such as Elliott Abrams, the U.S. special representative for Venezuela; Democratic candidates for president, notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke; and black and other minority media personalities.
His enemies crossed partisan lines. And his fixations knew no thematic coherence, including figures as disparate as Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur running for president, and Taylor Swift.
Meanwhile, he heaped praise on the perpetrator of the March mosque shootings in New Zealand, as well as the man who authorities say opened fire on Saturday in a synagogue near San Diego, killing one person. “We need to bomb synagogues,” he wrote, sharing the anti-Semitic diatribe that the suspect had allegedly posted online.
Colasurdo interspersed photographs of these men with images of Hitler, as well as with selfies. He appears shirtless and in exercise gear, broadcasting his masculinity. A number of images of him with a woman include the caption, “She dumped me.” In videos, he impersonates Islamist terrorists, wrapping his head in a towel and pretending to speak in a foreign tongue.
When authorities searched his home on Wednesday, they discovered only Airsoft guns, in addition to the stash of firearm paraphernalia. But they treated his threats as real, finally demonstrating — contrary to the man’s gloating — that there was something they could do about it.