Pohutsky: Threats of violence against lawmakers will continue unless GOP leaders issue ‘full throated condemnation’

Democrat calls out email predicting mass violence against public officials

By: - December 23, 2020 4:37 pm

Rep. Laurie Pohutsky | House Democrats photo

When state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) shared screenshots of an email she received from a Michigander calling for “mass execution of public officials” “very soon,” the Democrat noted that it is just one of many violent, threatening emails her office receives every day.

Pohutsky told the Advance Wednesday that she mostly feels “numb” to the threats now, but is frightened for the safety of herself and her staffers and wants GOP leaders to better protect their members.

In a tweet thread on Tuesday, Pohutsky wrote: “This was sent to my office this evening from Randall Yaeger, who chose to send it from his work email at Yaeger Construction. This email has already been sent to the authorities after my staffer, Sara, read it. Sara gets emails like this every day.”

The screenshotted email, which was sent to both Democratic and Republican state lawmakers, begins: “IF NOT BALLOTS, THEN BULLETS!” before going on to condemn elected officials for not taking action to (illegally) hand over President-elect Joe Biden’s victory to outgoing President Donald Trump.

There is no evidence of widespread election fraud despite right-wing claims otherwise. Biden’s victory in Michigan was certified on Nov. 23, and Michigan’s 16 electors officially cast their votes for Biden on Dec. 14.

“…I am afraid that all American voters will now be forced to change our government officials with bullets instead of ballots,” Yaeger’s email reads. “I predict a mass execution of public officials across this land and I predict it to start very soon. … Without the ability to control our government at the ballot box, they will control their government in other, less civilized manners.

“Keep your heads down, it is going to get ugly.”

Pohutsky told the Advance that her office receives 15-20 similar threats in her inbox “every single day,” but especially in the past few weeks following Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s chaotic and widely-publicized appearance before the House Oversight Committee on Dec. 3.

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About 10 of those daily emails are threatening enough to get forwarded to law enforcement.

“This is no longer a partisan issue. There are Democrats and Republicans alike who are having their lives threatened,” Pohutsky said, with lawmakers of color receiving the most “heinous” messages.

“If we were frightened by every single intimidating or threatening email that we got, we would constantly be afraid,” she said. Pohutsky has since implemented a policy to keep her staffers out of the office as much as possible in case someone makes good on a threat.

“We’ve just been trying to keep them out of the office entirely because it’s not safe,” Pohutsky said.

Pohutsky said she believes the best way to cool down the barrage of violent rhetoric would be a thorough condemnation from GOP leaders.

“We’ve seen for months that [Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering)] have been dipping a toe and flirting with these conspiracy theories and these people who have been calling for violence,” Pohutsky said.

She pointed to Shirkey and Chatfield joining an anti-Gov. Gretchen Whitmer protest at the Capitol just hours after news broke about the right-wing plot to murder her, and Chatfield’s statement afterwards insinuating that Whitmer brought the threats of violence on herself.

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“There hasn’t been a full throated condemnation of this type of rhetoric,” Pohutsky said Wednesday. “And there’s also been this feeding into the conspiracy theories about the election and fraud and things like that. So they’re perpetuating the very thing that is really driving this type of rhetoric.

“Half-hearted statements about ‘we shouldn’t be threatening anybody,’ while you’re holding a committee hearing that is a national embarrassment and serves no purpose other than to perpetuate these lies — your half-hearted statements really don’t cut it,” she added.

Shirkey spokesperson Amber McCann said in an email: “Senator Shirkey has repeatedly spoken out against violence and the use of threats and intimidation. He himself has been on the receiving end of several threatening messages in the wake of the election that have been turned over to law enforcement. He condemns the use of violent tactics in any form.”

A spokesperson for Chatfield did not return a request for comment.

“I think that it starts with GOP leadership being very, very clear, unequivocal, about the fact that the election is over,” Pohutsky said.

“Both [Shirkey] and Lee Chatfield are very, very good at almost saying the thing that they need to say, but not quite doing it. … We need you to just take that extra step and say, this is over. This is done. There was no fraud. Everybody needs to move along.”

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).

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