American arrested for death threats to Democratic lawmakers

Saturday April 20 2019

US Representative Ilhan Omar -- who is Muslim

US Representative Ilhan Omar -- who is Muslim and the first US national lawmaker to wear a headscarf -- is among three legislators who were left death threats (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski) 

By AFP

Miami. Police arrested a Florida man on Friday on suspicion of threatening to kill three Democratic lawmakers and expressing his hatred for controversial Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, prosecutors said.

John Kless, 49, of Broward County, is accused of leaving expletive-strewn voicemailed death threats at the Washington offices of California Representative Eric Swalwell, Detroit Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.

He allegedly said in his message to presidential hopeful Booker that "you government officials will be in the graves where you... belong."

Kless is said to have racially abused Omar, a Somali-American former refugee, referencing a recent controversy in which she was accused -- falsely, according to her defenders -- of downplaying the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The freshman congresswoman has found herself in hot water since arriving in Washington for comments seen by critics as anti-Semitic.

Kless, who reportedly defended Donald Trump in the messages and warned the lawmakers to stop criticizing the president, has been charged with making threatening communications.

Some analysts have pointed to the US president's heated rhetoric as the catalyst for a toxic atmosphere encouraging such behavior -- a possibility the White House has rejected.

Trump recently tweeted out a video of Omar featuring footage of the World Trade Center burning juxtaposed with her comments, taken out of context to portray her attitude to the 9/11 attacks as glib.

The president's language was also criticized following an anti-Semitic massacre in Pittsburgh last year -- and during a week-long mail bombing spree that saw another Florida man target high-profile liberal political figures, Trump critics and the news outlet CNN.

Prosecutors say Kless used homophobic slurs in his message to Swalwell -- who supports same-sex marriage rights and gun control and is also vying for the presidency.

"The day you come after our guns... is the day you'll be dead," Kless is alleged to have warned the lawmaker.