Death threats — including threats that describe death by hanging.
References to where you live.
Not-so-subtle allusions to your family.
Warnings that your personal information will soon become public — or perhaps it has already.
These are just some of the reports coming in from low-level GOP officials around the country about the threats they claim to have received from pro-Trump forces. As Trump accuses other politicians and the party at large of denying him delegates, ominous messages believed to be coming from freelance Trump backers — usually hiding behind anonymity — have injected fear and anxiety into the usually low-stakes delegate selection process at the local and state level.
It will likely be sometime before we know whether the GOP confab in Cleveland will be a full-blown contested convention, but the current backlash from Trumpites portends some dark days ahead if Trump is denied the nomination.
From Indiana to Colorado to Tennessee, those involved in the delegate selection process are receiving harassment and even death threats from Trump fans who believe that the system has been “rigged” against the real estate mogul. The normally humdrum process of picking the party rank-and-file who will attend the summer convention has attracted intense scrutiny with the prospect that Trump might arrive in Cleveland with less than the 1,237 delegates required to earn the nomination automatically. His chief rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), has capitalized on the complicated state-by-state machinery that selects who could be choosing the nominee if Trump doesn’t meet the threshold. The low-level state and local officials are already bearing the brunt of Trump fans’ disgust that might not win the nomination.
“There has definitely been some activity that’s ranged from proper First Amendment, if not proper English, responses to public comments to things that are a little bit more spooky or problematic,” Tom John, a GOP district chair in Indiana, told TPM, adding that most of the backlash he has received has been in emails or on Twitter.
“There have been a few [messages] for myself and others that have referenced personal things, things you’ve said on social media, references to our families, references to our houses, things like that that feel a little bit more ominous,” he said.
Indiana hasn’t even hosted its Republican primary yet. But due to the quirks in the timing, its delegate selection process is already underway and an April 9 Politico story, where some local party members doubted that Trump had much support among the delegation, have attracted the scorn of his followers.
John and Indiana Republicans quoted in the Politico story have been receiving threatening messages, according to the Indy Star, in which they were warned their personal information and their families’ would be released to the public.
“Think before you take a step down the wrong path, the American people want to have faith in your but it looks like a future in hiding is more appealing,” one message said, according to the Star. The state police have even begun reviewing the messages, the Star reported Tuesday
In Colorado — where the Cruz campaign’s success in securing loyal delegates earned inflammatory headlines on the Drudge Report — the state GOP chair said he has been receiving death threats after an anonymous Trump fan tweeted his personal information and the personal information of other party officials.
“300 phone calls with many being the trashiest you can imagine over a tweet we didn’t send and because a candidate didn’t speak at our convention when we tried very hard to get him there,” Colorado GOP Chair Steve House wrote on his Facebook page, according to a screenshot captured by Right Scoop that was confirmed by a Colorado GOP spokesperson. “Shame on the people who somehow think it is right to threaten me and my family over not liking the outcome of an election.”
A representative of one of the other Colorado officials whose information was blasted out told TPM it had been a “stressful 24 hours” for the official.
In Tennessee, local police monitored the state GOP convention to choose its 14 delegates earlier this month, according to a report by the Times Free Press. Party officials confirmed to the outlet that there were death threats ahead of the contest including one that “involved trying to hang people.”
Trump’s campaign operation in Indiana condemned the threats made towards officials there. Trump himself has continued to beat the drum that his supporters are somehow being “disenfranchised” by the Republican Party. A spokesperson for Trump’s national campaign did not return TPM’s request for comment.
Roger Stone, a former adviser to Trump, suggested he would send Trump voters to the hotel rooms of delegates in Cleveland if they tried to “steal” the nomination from him. Trump’s convention manager brushed off the rhetoric by saying Stone was not “an official part of the campaign.”
The threats that delegates and other Republicans have been receiving reflect the growing anxiety that things could get ugly at Republican National Convention, whether or not Trump is ultimately placed at the top of the 2016 ticket. The Cleveland police has sought additional riot gear anticipating protests, and some Republican lawmakers are considering skipping the convention, reportedly for fear of being associated with what could be a messy floor fight.
John, the Indiana official, meanwhile, said he was planning on having a discussion with his wife about whether she should join him in Cleveland.
“I hope it calms down, but it’s given me pause,” he said. “If it doesn’t calm down I may not be comfortable with her coming with me.”