Jun 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

DOJ nabs first guilty plea for threats against election workers

Photo of Merrick Garland speaking from a podium
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C. on June 16, 2022. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

A Nebraska man pleaded guilty Thursday to threatening an election official on Instagram in the Justice Department's first conviction under its Election Threats Task Force.

Why it matters: The U.S. saw a spike in threats directed at election workers during and after the 2020 election. These workers left in droves after facing persistent threats of violence and harassment while performing their jobs.

Details: Travis Ford, 42, posted multiple threatening messages on an Instagram page associated with the unnamed election official.

  • "Do you feel safe? You shouldn’t," read one comment.
  • In another post, he said, "Your security detail is far too thin and incompetent to protect you. This world is unpredictable these days….anything can happen to anyone."
  • Ford also posted similar messages on an Instagram page associated with the president, according to the Justice Department.

The big picture: The Election Threats Task Force launched in June 2021 in response to increasing threats of violence against election workers.

What they're saying: "Threats of violence against election officials are dangerous for people’s safety and dangerous for our democracy, and we will use every resource at our disposal to disrupt and investigate those threats and hold perpetrators accountable," Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement.

  • "Threatening violence against election workers in an attempt to intimidate them while in performance of their duties will not be tolerated," added FBI Director Christopher Wray.
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