LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Washington — Police have arrested a Florida man and charged him with making threats by phone last week to freshman U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, and two other Democratic lawmakers in Congress.

Police say John J. Kless of Tamarac, Florida, called Tlaib, as well as Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey; and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California; during the 7 a.m. hour of April 16, leaving threatening and profane voicemail messages. 

Kless was charged Friday with interstate transmission of threats, according to court records. He could not be reached Monday for comment.

A spokesman for Tlaib declined Monday to comment. 

"Hey Taliban," the voicemail to Tlaib started before referring to Tlaib's friend and fellow Muslim member of Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota. 

"Tell your Taliban friend to shut the [expletive] up about 9/11. This ain't Trump's fault, (expletive). It's all your people's fault," the voicemail continued. 

The voicemail followed President Donald Trump's tweet last week targeting Omar for comments she made during a speech on Muslims and civil rights in the United States.

Trump had retweeted a video edited to suggest she was being dismissive of the significance of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, prompting Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to come to her defense.

Omar said last week she received increased death threats that referred or replied to the video, and Pelosi asked U.S. Capitol Police to ensure security measures to protect Omar. 

The voicemail allegedly left by Kless said "the day when the bell tolls” and “this country comes to a war, there will be no more threats,” court records said.

"Your life will be on the [expletive] line. All of you. So. There’s people like me out there, millions and millions of us, who hate you ... for what you done on 9/11." 

The same caller left similarly threatening voicemails at the Washington offices of Booker and Swalwell, who are both running for the Democratic presidential nomination. 

In an affidavit, Capitol Police Special Agent Lacey Evans wrote that she filed an expedited request for information from the threatening caller's cellphone company because Tlaib was scheduled to speak in Florida over the weekend of April 20-21. 

Data provided by the company included Kless’ address, confirmed his outgoing calls, as well as GPS information.

Evans noted that Kless had previously been identified as making threatening calls to Pelosi in February, according to the Capitol Police's threat database.  

Kless was arraigned Friday and release on a $25,000 bond with a GPS monitoring device, according to court records, which did not list the name of his attorney.

mburke@detroitnews.com 

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2019/04/22/police-arrest-florida-man-threatening-calls-tlaib/3543276002/