Maybe President Donald Trump just has a certain effect on people. Kind of like the T-Veronica virus.
Federal prosecutors last Wednesday charged Brittan J. Atkinson with making criminal death threats against one of the attorneys for the intelligence community whistleblower whose report on Trump’s infamous Ukraine phone call quickly snowballed into the Democratic Party’s ultimately unsuccessful impeachment effort.
The brief indictment was noted Thursday by terrorism research Seamus Hughes:
Seems important. pic.twitter.com/h8ZRouiruY
— Seamus Hughes (@SeamusHughes) February 20, 2020
Atkinson, apparently inspired by a Trump rally on November 6, 2019, allegedly emailed attorney Mark Zaid the very next day—parroting some of the 45th president’s best applause lines. It’s unclear if the Michigan resident was in attendance at the rally or if he had simply consumed the president’s words through the media.
The email’s verbiage is overwrought patriotism distilled into Trump fan fiction:
All traitors must die miserable deaths. Those that represent traitors shall meet the same fate. We will hunt you down and bleed you out like the pigs you are. We have nothing but time, and you are running out of it. Keep looking over your shoulder. We know who you are, where you live, and who you associate with. We are all strangers in a crowd to you.
As Law&Crime previously reported, Trump directly went after Zaid—in front of the crowd—just hours before that email was sent.
“I just got off the plane and they hand me—look at this character—they just hand me this story,” the president said. He then reached into his pocket and read aloud from a Fox News story referencing Zaid’s controversial tweet about a “coup” that had “started.”
“In the time since that tweet was posted, which was referring to lawyers serving as the force of good to prevent this president from doing harm to our democracy, I’ve probably represented more Republicans, including White House officials, than Democrats,” Zaid told Law&Crime in a story on the day that story originally broke. “This is nothing more than the continuing partisan deflection to desperately avoid discussing the substance of my client’s whistleblower complaint.”
Zaid elaborated further in a statement sent to Fox News:
Those tweets were reflective and repeated the sentiments of millions of people. I was referring to a completely lawful process of what President Trump would likely face as a result of stepping over the line, and that particularly whatever would happen would come about as a result of lawyers. The coup comment referred to those working inside the Administration who were already, just a week into office, standing up to him to enforce recognized rules of law.
Zaid’s explanation ignored by Trump and his stalwart supporters. In fact, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow again mentioned the tweet during closing arguments at the impeachment trial in the Senate.
The 45th president railed against the whistleblower’s attorney in Monroe, Louisiana —calling him “a sleazeball” and referring to the impeachment inquiry as a “hoax” and “scam” aided and abetted by the media.
“Can you believe this?” Trump asked the adoring crowd before him. “Just came out. It’s a disgrace. These people are bad people. They rip the guts out of our country.”
Atkinson apparently agreed. He was charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 875(c) and faces up to five years in prison.
“I will continue to zealously represent my clients, to include and especially whistleblowers, and to ensure the rule of law is enforced & protected,” Zaid told Law&Crime via email. “I am very grateful to the FBI and Justice Department for taking these threats seriously and sending the right message.”
The advocate also signaled his willingness to remain unbowed by either threats or criticism by using the hashtags #NoFear and #ProtectAllWhistleblowers on Twitter.
“It’s not appropriate for anyone to threaten another individual’s life, regardless of political views,” Zaid told Politico. “My job was to ensure the rule of law was followed in how whistleblowers are treated. That role should not be negatively weaponized by partisans.”
“I hope this indictment sends a message to others that such behavior will not be tolerated by a civil society that is governed by law,” he said.
[image via Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images]