President Donald Trump’s consistent rhetoric denouncing the mainstream media as the “enemy of the people” has consequences. The FBI has now arrested a U.S. Army soldier named Jarrett William Smith who’d been operating out of Fort Riley, Kansas, and plotting major terror attacks against targets ranging from a “major” American news organization (whose identity is seemingly private at present) to Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who Trump has also targeted for mockery at times.
In conversation with an FBI informant on August 19, Smith said:
‘A large vehicle bomb. Fill a vehicle full of [explosives] then fill a ping pong ball with [commonly available chemical] via drilling then injection. Put the ball in the tank of the vehicle and leave. 30 minutes later, BOOM.’
The threat to O’Rourke came on September 20 in conversation with an undercover FBI agent — after a Republican serving in the Texas state legislature had himself insisted his AR-15 is “ready” for the candidate, which many interpreted as a death threat.
Smith was arrested the day after his conversation with an undercover agent and charged with distributing information relating to weapons of mass destruction, which apparently carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in federal prison.
Besides the plans to attack a news organization and O’Rourke, Smith reportedly also “planned to travel to Ukraine to fight with violent far-right group Azov Battalion and allegedly distributed information online on how to build bombs.” He also planned to target those affiliated with the Antifa or anti-fascist movement, according to reporting on the incident.
Trump has also targeted that group, and he and other Republican leaders have claimed they constitute a domestic terror threat despite the complete lack of formal organization around anything but the idea of challenging fascism and the basically nonexistent casualty list from their activities, which contrasts dramatically with that associated with Trump’s own supporters. It wasn’t that long ago at all that an angry white supremacist spouting the exact same anti-immigrant rhetoric Trump has used killed 22 people and wounded many more in an El Paso Walmart. Trump refused to denounce the rhetoric in question after the incident.
Smith has reportedly been in contact with one of the people who he advised about bomb-making since at least 2016. In late 2018 — not that long ago at all — Smith reportedly “led a group chat” that included the individual (named Craig Lang) and covered the topic of Smith’s alleged bomb-making capability. Lang has apparently already successfully traveled to Ukraine, where he fought with a far-right group called the Right Sector, while in that late 2018 group chat, Smith claimed he’s “got knowledge of IEDs for days” and can teach interested parties to “make cell phone IEDs in the style of the Afghans.” Whether he could do so remains partly in question.
Other times things like this have happened under the shadow of Trump’s rhetoric include the occasion on which his supporter Cesar Sayoc mailed attempts at bombs to an array of prominent interests from CNN to Democratic leaders. None of them detonated, but Sayoc was taken into custody and his legal team subsequently blamed Trump’s incitement.
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