Updated | Law enforcement officials are not saying whether they will charge broadcaster Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist ally of President Donald Trump, for publicly threatening to “beat” Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and telling Schiff to “fill your hand”—a reference to taking up a pistol.
But, says an attorney with expertise in federal law, Jones’s threats appear to break a federal law, U.S. Code Title 18, Section 115, which makes it illegal to threaten to assault a U.S. official and provides a penalty of up to six years in prison.
“I do think that the combination of Jones’s comments would amount to a threat,” says Amanda Berman, director of legal affairs with Lawfare Project, a consortium of experts on national security law. “It seems to be a clear provocation. Ultimately, the question would have to be put to a judge or jury, but I think there is a legal basis for a conviction based on Jones’s threat, which was made ‘with intent to impede, intimidate or interfere’ with Congressman Schiff’s exercise of his duties as the ranking member of the committee investigating the connection between the Trump campaign/administration and the Russians.”
Schiff likely became a Jones target because he is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Schiff has said there is “more than circumstantial” evidence of collusion between Trump associates and Russia.
Jones is based in Austin, Texas, and Texas state law also forbids threats against public officials.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas did not return calls and emailed requests for comment.
Uploaded March 30 under the headline Watch Live Now! Plan to Assassinate Trump Leaked, the video involved an interview with Republican operative Roger Stone, a sometime Trump adviser. Jones launched into his rant against Schiff while talking with Stone, but the canny operative—who has been accused of having Russia ties himself—did not take the bait, remarking: “I’m not going to go there.”
It’s not clear whether the video was broadcast on the air before being posted to YouTube: If so, that would bring it under the purview of the Federal Communications Commission. Jones’s Infowars program is carried by Genesis Communications Network, which produces 75 shows aired on 830 radio stations.
In addition to threatening to “beat” Schiff, the rant was also explicitly anti-gay. Neither Schiff’s office nor the FCC has returned calls for comment. The CEO and founder of Genesis Communications, Ted Anderson, also has not responded to messages.
The video was brought to Newsweek’s attention by Media Matters, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that monitors Jones’s shows.
Jones’s broadcast style serves up class resentment and paranoia, and he sometimes literally growls with rage about “globalists.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has called him “the most prolific conspiracy theorist in America.” Among the outlandish ideas he frequently discusses are that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were an inside job and that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a faked false-flag operation aimed at taking away Americans’ gun rights. Until he publicly recanted recently, he was also a purveyor of “Pizzagate,” the claim that Hillary Clinton and other Democrats engaged in child abuse in the basement of a popular Washington, D.C., pizza parlor. Acting on that theory, a North Carolina man shot up the restaurant with an assault rifle in December after driving to the nation’s capital to “self-investigate.”
The rise of Trump has not soothed Jones’s excitable tendencies. On the contrary: He has dialed it up a few notches, going so far as urging Trump to use violence against his opponents.
In February, the online advertiser AdRoll suspended its relationship with Infowars. Kellogg has also stopped its advertising, citing hate speech. Jones is still supported by Google via its YouTube Partners Program, which helps users connect with advertisers, and other advertisers include PlayStation and Trivago.
The full transcript of Jones’s rant against Schiff is below, and the video clip is here.
Warning: persistent profanity.
“I’m not against gay people. OK. I love them, they’re great folks. But Schiff looks like the archetypal cocksucker with those little deer-in-the-headlight eyes and all his stuff. And there’s something about this fairy, hopping around, bossing everybody around, trying to intimidate people like me and you, I want to tell Congressman Schiff and all the rest of them, ‘Hey, listen, asshole, quit saying Roger and I’—and I’ve never used cussing in 22 years, but the gloves are off—‘listen, you son of a bitch, what the fuck’s your problem? You want to sit here and say that I’m a goddamn, fucking Russian. You get in my face with that, I’ll beat your goddamn ass, you son of a bitch. You piece of shit. You fucking goddamn fucker. Listen, fuckhead, you have fucking crossed a line. Get that through your goddamn fucking head. Stop pushing your shit. You’re the people that have fucked this country over and gangraped the shit out of it and lost an election. So stop shooting your mouth off claiming I’m the enemy. You got that you goddamn son of a bitch? Fill your hand.’ I’m sorry, but I’m done. You start calling me a foreign agent, those are fucking fighting words. Excuse me.”
After reviewing the transcript, attorney Berman says it’s clear Jones indicated an intent to harm, under the law. “Regardless of the qualifying language ‘get in my face with that,’ Jones challenges the congressman to arm himself for a physical altercation—‘fill your hand’—and suggests that if the two ever ‘faced off,’ which could mean that they were simply in the same room together, the congressman would be assaulted. Jones says that ‘the gloves are off’ and that he [Jones] was the victim of the congressman's ‘fighting words.’”
Jones has not responded to a request for comment.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly called Media Matters a PAC. It is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit.