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Trump's Verbal Attacks on Judge Incite Death Threats

After a visibly frustrated Donald Trump sat through a tense hearing in the first-ever criminal trial of a former president, he hopped on his social media platform with choice words for the judge. New York Justice Juan Merchan, Trump declared on Truth Social, is a “highly conflicted” overseer of a “kangaroo court.” Trump supporters swiftly replied with a blitz of attacks on Merchan. The comments turned ugly. Some called for Merchan and other judges hearing cases against Trump to be killed. “Treason is a hangable offense,” one wrote. “They should all be executed,” added another. The April 23 post by Trump and the menacing responses from his followers illustrate the impact of his angry and incessant broadsides against the judges handling the criminal and civil suits against him, Reuters reports. As his presidential campaign intensifies, Trump has cast the judges and prosecutors in his trials as corrupt puppets of the Biden administration, bent on torpedoing his White House bid. The rhetoric is inspiring widespread calls for violence.


In a review of commenters’ posts on three pro-Trump websites, including the former president’s own Truth Social, Reuters documented more than 150 posts since March 1 that called for physical violence against the judges handling three of his highest-profile cases – two state judges in Manhattan and one in Georgia overseeing a criminal case in which Trump is accused of illegally seeking to overturn the state’s 2020 election results. Those posts were part of a larger pool of hundreds identified by Reuters that used hostile, menacing and, in some cases, racist or sexualized language to attack the judges. Still, they stopped short of explicitly calling for violence against them. While Trump himself hasn’t called for violence on judges, his language can signal to followers that judges are no different from partisan rivals worthy of scorn, derision and attack, threatening the legitimacy of the independent judiciary, said experts on political violence. “Trump is constantly riling up his supporters to be angry on his behalf,” said Lilliana Mason, a John Hopkins University political scientist. “He takes that large group of angry people, he points them in a particular direction, and then the judges get all these death threats.”

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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