As serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) becomes increasingly embroiled in legal troubles, he is lashing out more and more at the prosecutors who have brought indictments against him, the witnesses who have testified or will testify in the cases, and the judges overseeing the cases. It is therefore not surprising that some of his cult followers will see his rants as a call to take up arms on his behalf, such as this woman.
A Texas woman has been arrested and charged with threatening to kill the federal judge overseeing the criminal case against the former US president Donald Trump in Washington DC, and a member of Congress.
Abigail Jo Shry of Alvin, Texas, called the federal courthouse in Washington DC and left the threatening message, using a racist term for the US district judge Tanya Chutkan, on 5 August, court records allege. Investigators traced her phone number and she later admitted to making the threatening call, according to a criminal complaint.
In the call, Shry told told the judge, who is overseeing the election conspiracy case against Trump: “You are in our sights, we want to kill you,” according to the documents. Prosecutors allege Shry also said: “If Trump doesn’t get elected in 2024, we are coming to kill you.” She also threatened to kill Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat representative running for mayor of Houston, according to court documents.
Shry seems to be not very bright and was thus easily caught and is now in jail. But others may be better able to cover their tracks and carry out their threats.
But what really concerns me is the following plausible scenario. It is that SSAT wins the Republican nomination despite all the court cases he has to maneuver through during the primary process and that while those cases will undoubtedly increase the intensity of the loyalty of his die-hard supporters, it will also cause him to lose some support among the less committed and independent voters so that as it gets close to the general election on November 5, 2024, it looks very likely that he will lose. What could happen then?
It is unlikely that they will face that this possibility stoically. It is always possible that he and his supports will hope that there is a repetition of what happened in 2016, when he won despite the polls right up to election day predicting that Hillary Clinton would win. But SSAT and his supporters may not want to leave that to chance this time. Their experience after the 2020 election shows that trying to overturn an election loss after the fact is not going to work. In fact, it will be even harder the next time because people will be prepared for such an effort in ways that they were not in 2020.
So in the period leading up the election, SSAT and his followers may decide to act preemptively, seeking to make sure that SSAT is declared the winner, irrespective of what the voters say. How will they do that? It is hard to predict how far fanatics will go but putting their own people in charge of running the election and counting the votes, extensive measures to disrupt voting is Democratic leaning areas, using threats of force and actual violence to intimidate people, and even more drastic measures that I cannot even envisage, are possible. In other words, I can see an increasingly volatile and violence-prone period leading up to election day. I do not know what exactly to expect except that all the institutions of democracy will be sorely tested.
How will those institutions respond to these challenges? One hopes that they will be able to adequately prepare for them. The US managed to conduct elections and maintain its institutions in 1864 even during the Civil War so one hopes that it will be able to do so in 2024. But that is not a given since this time those institutions are being challenged by someone who is a former president and is willing to do anything to regain the presidency since that may be his only hope of avoiding prison time and who is supported by a fanatical groups of hard core followers who are willing to take any action on his behalf. And, like Shry above, some of them are very angry but also not very bright, which is a dangerous combination that can lead to irrational and violent actions that may make the events of January 6th, 2021 look like a picnic.
What I am saying may sound unduly alarmist and I hope I am wrong. But it is good to prepare for the worst.