Congress

Florida man arrested for death threats to Reps. Tlaib, Swalwell and Sen. Booker

John Joseph Kless was arrested and charged with making threatening communications

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., was among three Democratic lawmakers who recently received death threats by voicemail at their D.C. offices. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A Florida man was arrested Friday after police said he threatened to kill three Democratic lawmakers: Reps. Eric Swalwell and Rashida Tlaib, as well as Sen. Cory Booker.

John Joseph Kless, 49, was charged in the Southern District of Florida with making threatening communications, after he apparently left death threats by voicemail in the lawmakers’ Washington offices. 

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He is accused of using incessant profanity and racism in each call, referring to Tlaib, a Muslim, as “Taliban” and “towel head,” while he called Booker, an African American, a “monkey” and the N-word.

In the messages for the three lawmakers, Kless is quoted as having made numerous racist references to a fourth member of Congress who had made comments about 9/11. It’s clear that he was talking about Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar.

“Tell your Taliban friend to shut the f--- up about 9/1 1, this ain’t Trump’s fault, b----, it’s all your people’s fault. You’re the motherf------ who drove the planes into the buildings, b----,” he said in a voicemail left for Tlaib, according to federal court documents. 

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Swalwell, who recently announced his bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, said he was grateful to the Capitol Police and Florida law enforcement for protecting him. 

“Threatening violence is the lowest form of communication and has no place in our community,” the California Democrat said.

Booker, who is also running for president in 2020, declined to comment on the matter.

The arrest was, in part, made because Tlaib was scheduled to speak in Florida between April 21-22, according to the affidavit. Her office didn’t immediately respond with comment.

The Capitol Police also found that Kless called Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s D.C. office in February and left a profane voicemail about “taking away his guns, abortion, illegal immigration, and Muslims in Congress,” according to the affidavit.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. Flashback: Trump calls on Rep. Ilhan Omar to resign

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