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FLASH ALERT: AS TRUMP’S CRIMINAL TRIAL STARTS, FEAR OF VIOLENT PROTESTS GROWS

Lydia Baccino, Gabriel Helupka NORTHCOM & Extremism Teams

Cameron Munoz, Senior Editor

June 12, 2023


Former President Trump[1]


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT to all government officials, political staff, and Miami law enforcement as online threats and potential protests of far-right extremist individuals have risen significantly. These protest plans have gained momentum recently as former President Trump’s trial date relating to the 37 federal charges nears. Authorities in Miami are currently monitoring online chatter surrounding plans for a protest outside the federal courthouse, organized by the far-right group The Proud Boys. Trump has added to these tensions through his highly critical and accusatory statements toward the Biden Administration and its political allies.[2] Trump has created several posts on Truth Social and in interviews, including text, videos, and memes, declaring his innocence while firing up his supporters through statements like, “our country needs to protest” and, “This is not a game, this is war.” In response, supporters on the pro-Trump internet forum, Patriot.Win, have declared war and stated that these protests would make, “Waco look like a tea party.”[3]


CTG is on HIGH alert for the safety of members of the Biden Administration, their allies, Department of Justice (DOJ) staff, and judicial buildings in Miami that will LIKELY be targets for violent protests carried out in Trump’s name. There is a HIGH LIKELIHOOD that online chatter will continue to grow on far-right platforms like 4Chan, GAB, Gettr, Truth Social, and Patriots.Win. This online chatter will ALMOST CERTAINLY continue to post violent threats directed at Attorney General Merrick Garland, special counsel Jack Smith, and their families. There is a HIGH LIKELIHOOD that protests could still occur, with Miami Federal Courthouse a LIKELY location. Protestors will LIKELY turn violent with some individuals armed with weapons, including firearms, knives, blunt instruments, smoke bombs, and canisters of pepper spray. While initial online chatter shows the Proud Boys as the leading organization, there is a HIGH LIKELIHOOD that other prevalent far-right groups and individuals will travel to Miami, Florida to participate in these protests. As protests grow in size, it is ALMOST CERTAIN that this will cause uncertainty among law enforcement on how to adequately deal with this threat to avoid another January 6 style event.


June 9, 2023, saw Donald Trump indicted on 37 federal charges for mishandling classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago estate. These documents included material from the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies concerning the US's nuclear program, a foreign country's backing of terrorism against US interests, domestic vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks, and the disclosure of a US "plan of attack" on a foreign nation to another person.[4] Since his indictment, Trump has frequently posted on Truth Social about the “corrupt” Biden Administration while releasing a video stating, “I’m an innocent person… we will fight this out like we have been fighting for years.”[5] These posts have caused violent rhetoric to gain momentum online through far-right platforms, predominantly on the pro-trump message board Patriot.Win. This platform played a vital role in the planning stages of the January 6 riots. Individuals are now using it to amplify calls to declare “war,” with one protester stating that “protests could make Waco look like a tea party.. this is what the Second Amendment was made for.”[6] Further comments in support of protests were delivered during a conference of Georgia Republicans, with Kari Lake, former gubernatorial candidate in Arizona, announcing that, “If you want to get to President Trump, you’re going to have to go through me, and you’re going to have to go through 75 million Americans just like me… We’re at war, people — we’re at war.”[7] Law enforcement’s monitoring of social media and online chat forums has not seen any explicit detailed plans. The theory that this indictment is politically motivated has been legitimized by Republican lawmakers and politicians who have come out supporting Trump. Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) tweeted to his 730,000 Twitter followers, “We have now reached a war phase. Eye for an eye.”[8] Former US National Security Advisor General Mike Flynn began a Twitter comment thread by, “Yes, the storm has arrived,” reaffirming the far-right belief that this a false indictment politically motivated from the “corrupt” Biden Administration.[9]

Trump on Monday reignited violent rhetoric aimed at President Joe Biden as he “swore he would get even with Joe Biden.” On Truth Social, in an all-capital post, he stated, “I WILL APPOINT A REAL SPECIAL ‘PROSECUTOR’ TO GO AFTER THE MOST CORRUPT PRESIDENT IN THE HISTORY OF THE USA, JOE BIDEN, THE ENTIRE BIDEN CRIME FAMILY, & ALL OTHERS INVOLVED WITH THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR ELECTIONS, BORDERS, & COUNTRY ITSELF!”[10] Further threats towards government officials have been posted online, specifically at Attorney General Merrick Garland with an attached link containing information on his daughters. One user stated, “America cannot allow this cowardly thug to destroy our democracy. This is what the Second Amendment was made for. Buy a gun or help organize your local militia today.”[11] Another pro-Trump site, The Donald, has become a favorite among far-right individuals who continue to post violent rhetoric. Posts on this site include, “We need to start killing these traitorous fuckstains” regarding the ongoing trials surrounding the January 6 riots. Posts also read, “It's not gonna stop until bodies start stacking up. We are not civilly represented anymore and they'll come for us next. Some of us, they already have.”[12] These threats aimed at government officials, staff, and their families are a cause for concern following a string of attacks already directed at these individuals. Some of these attacks include the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) husband, two congressional staff members attacked at Congressman Gerry Connolly’s (D-VA) office, and the attack on Representative Angie Craig (D-MN).

Far-right groups very likely exercise more caution while communicating online after the January 6 capitol riot, likely fleeing to more private and encrypted communication channels. This caution likely indicates groups are aware of law enforcement’s online surveillance efforts, likely presenting challenges for monitoring by authorities. Local law enforcement is unlikely to prioritize resources for monitoring online chatter, likely increasing the possibility of a radicalized individual acting violently due to online influences. These individuals likely monitor commentary from influential right-wing personalities, likely seeking encouragement to prepare for a perceived battle against oppression with the indictment.


No elaborate plans are currently online from far-right groups, but this unlikely indicates the nonexistence of an operation. Far-right groups will likely wait to reveal their intentions until they mobilize, likely organizing mass protests while carrying firearms or tactical gear. This very likely increases the chances of confrontation, as heavily armed individuals are likely to intimidate counter-protestors and perceived enemies.


Law enforcement agencies will almost certainly work closely with the United States Secret Service to ensure protection for the DOJ staff attached to this court case and their families. Threats against officials working the case will very likely persist and receive broad attention, likely reaching a wider audience and amplification from Trump’s supporters online. This will likely encourage confrontational behavior or threatening rhetoric from supporters outside of the Southern District of Florida’s US Attorney’s office, Miami federal courthouse, and DOJ institutions. There is a roughly even chance far-right groups will attempt to identify and expose the residences of DOJ officials involved in the case or social media profiles of their families, intending to intimidate them. This will likely increase the risk of far-right individuals harassing, surveilling, or targeting DOJ staff, likely aiming to impede their ability to carry out duties associated with the indictment and undermine the integrity of the legal proceedings.


CTG recommends that the Miami Police Department closely coordinate with state and federal law enforcement to enhance security at the Miami federal courthouse during the indictment process, focusing on the dates of Trump's court appearances. Additional personnel, physical barriers, and enhanced surveillance systems should be implemented around the area to detect and deter potential security breaches. CTG advises law enforcement to temporarily allocate additional resources for online monitoring of platforms like 4Chan, GAB, Gettr, Truth Social, and Patriots.Win. We also recommend actively disrupting or infiltrating far-right encrypted communication channels. This action can potentially force groups to switch to different channels or likely lose members, thereby reducing communication between individuals. CTG advises law enforcement and security professionals to thoroughly assess potential threats from far-right groups in response to the indictment and identify high-risk individuals or groups to concentrate monitoring efforts on them. We encourage MPD to actively engage the local community, promote reporting of suspicious activities, potential threats, and foster trust between the community and law enforcement. We recommend conducting regular training sessions and drills to evaluate and enhance response strategies during the indictment process to address diverse protest scenarios, including potential violence and interactions with counter-protestors. Law enforcement should implement a transparent communication strategy to keep the public informed about security measures during the indictment process while emphasizing reporting suspicious activity, promoting peaceful protests, and condemning violence. CTG’s NORTHCOM and Extremism teams will continue to monitor the indictment process for any new developments and any ongoing or future threats. CTG’s OSINT team will continue to collect and analyze more data to identify new threats and discover high-risk users that may pose a public danger.


CTG assesses that the current threat environment is HIGH given past violence in high-profile events involving President Trump, including the January 6th Capitol riots, and current violent rhetoric from far-right Trump supporters. There is a roughly even chance that online chatter amongst far-right individuals and encouragement from right-wing commentators, including President Trump, will inspire individuals or groups to act violently at protests. Protest staging areas near the Miami federal courthouse should be put on HIGH alert for far-right groups or individuals acting violently, including potential clashes with counter-protestors or activists with different political ideologies. Law enforcement will likely increase security measures in nearby areas to prevent escalation or physical confrontation.


Analysis indicates that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY for protests occurring outside the Miami Federal Courthouse, with a HIGH PROBABILITY that protestors will turn violent. As the trial begins, there is a HIGH PROBABILITY that the violent rhetoric and threats posted online will continue to grow, making it likely that more individuals will travel to Florida to participate in the protests. Previous attacks have almost certainly allowed far-right organizations to learn how to avoid detection from law enforcement’s online monitoring.

 

[2] Trump’s Miami court date brings fears of violence, rally plans, The Washington Post, June 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2023/06/11/trump-miami-courthouse-security-protests/

[3] ‘This is War’: Police Monitoring Online Far-Right Threats and Pro-Trump Protests with Federal Indictment, The Independent, June 2023, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-protests-indictment-florida-rally-b2356096.html

[4] Trump faces 37 criminal counts in classified documents case, Reuters, June 2023, https://www.reuters.com/legal/trump-faces-federal-charges-classified-documents-case-adding-legal-woes-2023-06-09/

[5] Ibid

[6] ‘This is War’: Police Monitoring Online Far-Right Threats and Pro-Trump Protests with Federal Indictment, The Independent, June 2023, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-protests-indictment-florida-rally-b2356096.html

[7] Trump’s Miami court date brings fears of violence, rally plans, The Washington Post, June 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2023/06/11/trump-miami-courthouse-security-protests/

[8] ‘I Want Blood’: Heavily-Armed Trump Supporters Say They’ll Protest Trump’s Indictment, VICE, June 2023, https://www.vice.com/en/article/5d995k/trump-indictment-armed-protests-miami

[9] Yes, the storm has arrived, Twitter, June 12 2023, https://twitter.com/jgalan707/status/1668395933011267585?s=20

[10] Trump vows to ‘go after’ Biden’s family in bitter Truth Social rant before boarding Miami arraignment jet, The Independent, June 2023, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/biden-trump-arraignment-truth-social-b2356353.html

[11] I Want Blood’: Heavily-Armed Trump Supporters Say They’ll Protest Trump’s Indictment, VICE, June 2023, https://www.vice.com/en/article/5d995k/trump-indictment-armed-protests-miami

[12] ‘We Need to Start Killing’: Trump’s Far-Right Supporters Are Threatening Civil War, VICE, June 2023, https://www.vice.com/en/article/wxjjgb/trump-supporters-are-threatening-civil-war

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