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FBI Ramps Up Investigation of Threats Against Election Officials

The FBI has stepped up investigations of threats against election officials, reaching out for the first time in recent weeks in some cases to election supervisors and others who have endured months of harassment. The activity stems from the creation earlier this summer of a Department of Justice task force to address the rising threats of violence against those officials. And it raises hopes among some election administrators that individuals might finally be held to account for the barrage of threats spurred by falsehoods that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.

Richard Barron, who oversees elections in Fulton County, Georgia, and has spoken recently with two FBI agents, told CNN that he and his staff faced a torrent of threats and abuse after Democratic electoral victories last year in the traditionally red state. He said he recently shared two death threats with local FBI officials, including one made earlier this summer that warned he “would be served lead.” Other officials contacted recently by the FBI include Claire Woodall-Vogg, the executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission. In a recent interview on CNN, Woodall-Vogg estimated that she had received more than 150 threats. Following the airing of that interview earlier this week, Woodall-Vogg said she got another “really sinister” email that she has since forwarded to the FBI. “I don’t think people should be able to call with impunity to say whatever they want and to make threats,” said Barron. “I hope they make some arrests.”

Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination to be the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on July 12, 2017 in Washington,DC. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Some state officials say they need even more federal help, including money to monitor threats and provide security. The threats against election officials, the persistent falsehoods about the 2020 election, and a wave of new laws in Republican-controlled states that seek to usurp the authority of election officials have raised concerns of a potential mass exodus of experienced officials from the election workforce.

 

Department of Justice agency spokesman Joshua Stueve said the DOJ is “committed to aggressively addressing threats of violence directed toward state and local election officials and workers” and is coordinating with federal, state, and local officials to “combat this recent and entirely unacceptable phenomenon.” And in a statement, John Keller, a top attorney in the DOJ’s Public Integrity section who heads the new election task force, said the agency has specially designated federal agents and prosecutors “in every jurisdiction in the country” to work on the issue and is supplementing efforts by local and state authorities. DOJ officials say they are looking for patterns in the threats, including whether “common actors” are targeting multiple election administrators.

In Arizona — another state that flipped from red to blue last year — Bill Gates, a Republican member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said an FBI agent visited him in late August to discuss the tsunami of harassment and threats there. Gates said more of his fellow Republicans need to speak up and tell the truth about the 2020 election. “Tell people that No. 1: Joe Biden won and we need move on to the next election, but also, that it’s not right to threaten election administrators,” he said.

Gates added: “If more Republicans start speaking out, then we can move forward… The silence has been deafening from most in my party.”



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