In a "60 Minutes" segment last night on the attempted assassination last July of Federal District Judge Esther Salas, in which her son was killed and husband seriously wounded in their own home, the crisis of security for Federal judges was explored. Over the past 5 years, coinciding with the Trump era, there was an increase in threats against Federal judges of 400% according to the report, to some 4,000 last year. The report noted that the FBI found evidence that the killer involved in the Salas murder was also targeting Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
An ominous revelation, but one which shouldn't surprise us, involved the case of Federal Judge James Robart. After issuing a temporary restraining order against white supremacist autocrat Donald "Mango Mussolini" Trump's anti-Muslim travel ban, Trump attacked the judge twice on Twitter, resulting in thousands of threats against the judge. Here's a key conversation from the "60 Minutes" transcript with Bill Whitaker reporting:
"Then federal investigators uncovered something more ominous. Thousands of threats that looked to be from Americans – were actually from Russia, part of a long game by Vladimir Putin to splinter American democracy.
Suzanne Spaulding: If Putin can undermine a significant segment of the population's willingness to accept a court's decision, then he can cause chaos in this country.
Suzanne Spaulding ran top cybersecurity operations for both Democratic and Republican administrations. She told us Russia undermines the justice system by fanning some Americans' suspicions that judges are partisan.
Bill Whitaker: What did Judge Robart do to put himself in Russia's cross hairs?
Suzanne Spaulding: They attacked him, his decision as reflecting his personal political preferences, as opposed to following the rule of law. And that leads people to conclude that it is appropriate to make threats of violence. And as we saw in the tragic case of Judge Salas, to actually carry out an attack of violence.
Bill Whitaker: How big a threat do you think this is?
Suzanne Spaulding: You know, I think we got a taste of that on January 6th." (our emphasis)
After the massive SolarWinds hack of multiple U.S. computer systems this past year (and ongoing still), the Kremlin hasn't been deterred from trying to undermine our nation, whether it's malware they install on business systems or bots they let loose on Federal judges. Starting with this pledge to go after the SolarWinds perpetrators, the Biden Administration needs to make the price of this Kremlin aggression too high.