A top U.S. intelligence official is reporting an "alarming uptick" in "incredibly dangerous" online chatter calling for violence associated with former president Donald Trump's false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, CNN reported Friday.
The report comes on the same day (Aug. 13, or "Reinstatement Day") when some QAnon followers believed Trump would somehow return to the White House.
John Cohen, the chief of intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security, said the chatter is "strikingly similar to what was out there before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol," according to CNN anchor Pamela Brown.
Alex Marquardt, CNN's senior national security corespondent, called the report "really disturbing news."
"What he's saying is that some of this online chatter, so on social media and in different online platforms, they include phrases like, 'The system is broken.' They call on people to take action into their own hands and to 'bring out the gallows,'" Marquardt said. "It is hard to underestimate how significant these comments can be because as you know, on Jan. 6, we heard calls by the Capitol insurrectionists to hang Mike Pence. There were actually makeshift gallows on the national mall."
According to Marquardt, Cohen said the concern is not only that the chatter is similar to before Jan. 6 — it's that there has been an "uptick in these calls for violence."
Cohen also said while the chatter is associated with "a number of conspiracy theories," they all revolve around Trump's false claim of widespread election fraud, known as the "big lie."
"And that lie simply won't die, because people continue to talk about it," Marquardt said. "We still see the former president going around the country saying that the election was stolen from him. People like Mike Lindell, a big supporter of the former president, saying he has proof that the election was illegitimate — which of course has been widely debunked."
Marquardt noted that the DHS has repeatedly warned in recent months about the threat of violence associated with Trump's false claim.
"There is no specific threat, they say, but they have said it could lead to deadly violence, and now you have the head of intelligence at DHS pointing to these comments and saying they are incredibly dangerous and they are growing," he said.
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