Special counsel Jack Smith.
Photo: Getty Images
It is not a great sign that this pivotal year in politics has begun with a number of national figures fearing for their safety. Over the past few weeks, several politicians, judges, and other political figures have been “swatted” — a practice in which someone calls the police to an enemy’s home, claiming a violent emergency is taking place, in hopes of ruining the person’s night (or worse) with an aggressive SWAT response.
The recent swattings began in earnest on Christmas, when an anonymous caller claimed that special counsel Jack Smith had shot his wife at their home in Maryland, which U.S. Marshals protecting his home soon dismissed as bogus. The same day, a man claimed that he had shot his girlfriend at Marjorie Taylor Greene’s home in Georgia, though police were able to determine the call was fake before arrival. (“This is like the 8th time,” Greene tweeted.) There was a third Christmas swatting in central New York, where police actually did show up to the home of Representative Brandon Williams, responding to a call about a shooting. The next day, former speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives Rusty Bowers returned home to find sheriff’s deputies responding to a call claiming that a woman had been murdered inside and that there was a pipe bomb.
The trend continued on January 3, when Georgia elections official Gabriel Sterling tweeted that “911 got a call saying a drug deal gone bad,” resulting in a police visit to his home. (He is not the only Georgia state official to have been swatted in recent days.) On January 7, someone called 911 claiming there was a shooting at the Washington, D.C., home of Tanya Chutkan, the federal judge overseeing the Trump January 6 case. (Last summer, Chutkan received a voice-mail from a woman threatening to kill her “if Trump doesn’t get elected in 2024.) The next day, Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson claimed he was swatted at his home in Florida. Arrests in these cases have been scarce, though Greene has said she will introduce a bill making it easier to arrest people making bogus SWAT calls.
Unfortunately, the threats of violence go beyond phony calls to the police. Last week, prosecutors charged a man in Florida for leaving a number of voice messages at the office Eric Swalwell threatening to kill the representative and his children. And last Wednesday, a bomb threat emailed to election officials throughout the country resulted in increased security measures at over a dozen state capitols — as well as evacuations in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Maine, and Michigan. FBI officials stated that there was no evidence suggesting the threat was credible.
Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that the increased threats were “deeply disturbing” and that they “threaten the fabric of our democracy.”