Florida Man Charged With Making Threats Against Democratic Lawmakers

By Riddhi Sarkar, CNN

A man from Florida called and threatened multiple Democratic lawmakers earlier this month, according to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

John Joseph Kless, 49, called with messages that were generally vulgar, anti-Islamic and racist, according to the criminal complaint, making threats to California Rep. Eric Swalwell, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker on April 16.

In all three messages, Kless mentioned hatred for Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, repeatedly calling her a racial slur. Omar has recently been the subject of repeated death threats.

The threatening nature of the phone calls and the fact that Tlaib was scheduled to speak in Florida from April 20 to 21 led investigators to ramp up the investigation, according to the complaint.

In addition, the complaint said that a check of the US Capitol Police threat assessment records revealed a previous February 2019 case on KIess involving harassing calls made to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s DC office. The calls included voice messages “concerning Congress taking away his guns, abortion, illegal immigration, and Muslims in Congress,” the complaint said.

Swalwell expressed gratitude to Capitol Police and Florida law enforcement on Twitter and spoke about the matter in an interview on MSNBC on Friday afternoon.

“I’m running for president because I want to have a conversation in this country about changing our gun laws,” Swalwell said. “This threat is a tacit to have Congress and our law makers do nothing. There should be space to have a respectful debate but the — making a threat like this is the lowest form of communication.”

Kless appeared in court Friday and has been released, according to the court docket. Arraignment is set for May 3 in Fort Lauderdale.

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