A week ago, a Jan. 6 defendant was arrested near Barack Obama’s in D.C. with what the government says was a machete, two guns and 400 rounds of ammunition. It soon emerged that the man showed up shortly after Donald Trump posted images of an article featuring what was claimed to be Obama’s address, which the man promoted.
“We got these losers surrounded!” Taylor Taranto wrote on Telegram, one of two places where he promoted Trump’s Truth Social post. “See you in hell, Podesta’s and Obama’s!”
Taranto also allegedly live-streamed threats against Obama and other lawmakers, according to prosecutors.
Despite the week-old disclosure — and further detail emerging Wednesday — Trump’s Truth Social post featuring the address remained live on Thursday morning.
You could perhaps understand Trump’s original post of Obama’s alleged address as unwitting — it was a small detail in a series of four images of the article posted by Trump — but leaving it up after all this time must be a choice.
And it’s only the latest evidence of social media posts from the former president that have increasingly gone off the rails. Trump’s posts have never been the staid communications you’d expect from a statesman, but even by his standards, the past week has been remarkable.
Even as we were learning more about the Taranto case Wednesday, Trump weighed in on the bag of cocaine found at the White House. Trump baselessly claimed it belonged not just to Hunter Biden (as many on the right have suggested, given the president’s son’s struggles with drugs), but to President Biden himself.
“Does anybody really believe that the COCAINE found in the West Wing of the White House, very close to the Oval Office, is for the use of anyone other than Hunter & Joe Biden,” he posted.
He followed this up with: “Has Deranged Jack Smith, the crazy, Trump hating Special Prosecutor, been seen in the area of the COCAINE?” Trump added. “He looks like a crackhead to me!”
A day earlier, on the Fourth of July no less, Trump said Smith should be “DEFUNDED” and “put out to rest.” Trump’s verbiage was characteristically difficult to parse — it’s possible he meant putting Smith out “to pasture” — but laying someone “to rest” means burying the dead. (And it’s worth emphasizing: Trump has a demonstrated history with vague allusions to political violence, which has continued even after he was accused of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection.)
Also on the Fourth, Trump promoted an image of a flag saying “F—BIDEN” — uncensored — in one of repeated recent posts featuring images of vulgar slogans.
In the minutes before that post, Trump promoted a self-identified member of the anti-government Three Percenters militia movement who lodged a ridiculous claim that there were “41 MILLION INVALID VOTES” in the 2020 election — more than one-quarter of all votes counted.
“A lot has been made of this lately,” Trump wrote. “What do you think?”
(The claim rested on a blatant misreading of turnout figures. Self-appointed voter-fraud sleuths have noted there was 67 percent turnout in 2020 and 168 million registered voters — suggesting fewer than 113 million votes rather than 154 million. In fact, that turnout figure is among all eligible voters, not registered ones.)
Comparing Trump’s social media posts over time is a difficult and subjective exercise. This is a man who often posts extreme memes and vulgarities, obviously bogus election claims and even violent rhetoric.
But certainly, posting and keeping up the address of a former president who has allegedly been targeted for violence is on another level.
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman made a good point about all of this on CNN on Wednesday (while agreeing that Trump has become more “reckless” on social media). Were Trump to be saying these things on a more mainstream social media platform such as Twitter, the backlash probably would be swifter. What Truth Social has afforded Trump is an insulated space in which to speak to a more extreme audience that can include people, like Taranto, who take cues — whether intended or perceived — from the former president, without the same kind of policing.
It was a year ago that a man was arrested for an alleged plot to assassinate Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh near Kavanaugh’s home. Even before the arrest, TikTok banned an account that had posted the addresses of Supreme Court justices who were primed to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Republicans at the time railed against those protesting at the justices’ homes, which was apparently illegal. Senators also linked the alleged assassination plot to controversial 2020 comments made by then-Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). Schumer had said justices like Kavanaugh would “pay the price” and “you won’t know what hit you” if they ruled against abortion rights. (Schumer soon apologized and said that he wasn’t making a physical threat but rather an electoral one.)
What we have today is apparently a much more direct example of an allegedly violent man acting in response to the speech of a former president who has repeatedly toyed with the utility of political violence. For a week, Trump has decided to just leave Obama’s address up. And because of all that has come before it, that is somehow viewed as unremarkable.