Police arrested an armed man early Wednesday outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, saying he confessed he was angry about the court’s looming decision on abortion and planned to kill the justice and himself.
Deputy marshals stationed outside the justice’s home spotted Nicholas John Roske as he exited a taxi. He then walked down the road and called 911 on himself. He said he had traveled from his home in Simi Valley, California, to kill a justice, had a firearm in his suitcase, and was having suicidal thoughts, authorities said.
Police arrived and arrested Mr. Roske, 26. They reported finding in his gear a Glock 17 pistol, a tactical vest, a tactical knife, ammunition, pepper spray, zip ties and a set of tools, including a crowbar, according to court documents.
Mr. Roske told a Montgomery County detective that he was upset about the recently leaked draft opinion showing the high court is poised to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established a national right to abortion. He also was upset about the way he thought Justice Kavanaugh would rule in that case and in gun rights cases, the detective said.
“Roske stated that he began thinking about how to give his life a purpose and decided that he would kill the Supreme Court justice after finding the justice’s Montgomery County address on the internet,” FBI Special Agent Ian Montijo, a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, said in an affidavit.
Mr. Roske was charged with violating a law that forbids attempting or threatening to kidnap or kill a federal judge.
SEE ALSO: Progressives to protest outside Kavanaugh’s home hours after suspect arrested for attempted murder
The attempt stunned the nation’s capital. Republicans said Democrats and abortion rights forces bore the blame for ginning up anger at the Supreme Court.
“This is exactly the kind of event that many worried the unhinged, reckless, apocalyptic rhetoric from prominent figures toward the court, going back many months, and especially in recent weeks, could make more likely,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
He didn’t name names, but others did.
Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, pointed to Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the top Democrat in the chamber. Two years ago, Mr. Schumer stood on the steps of the Supreme Court and warned Justices Kavanaugh and Neil M. Gorsuch that their rulings had “released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price.”
“Thank God that law enforcement stopped this lunatic. Political violence is un-American,” Mr. Sasse said.
Republicans also chided House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, for delaying a bill to grant Supreme Court justices the kind of permanent security protection that top members of Congress and the executive branch have.
SEE ALSO: White House denounces violence against Supreme Court after armed man arrested near Kavanaugh’s home
The legislation cleared the Senate last month, but the Democratic-led House has not acted on it.
Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican and leading sponsor of the bill, demanded quick action.
“The arrest of this individual proves these threats to the justices’ lives are horrifyingly real, and it’s unconscionable for House Democrats to leave their families without police protection for even one more day,” Mr. Cornyn said.
The legislation was written after the homes of some of the court’s conservative justices were targeted for protests after the draft opinion was leaked. Activists also put the home addresses and other personal data of conservative jurists online.
The group leading the gatherings, Ruth Sent Us, still planned to gather outside Justice Kavanaugh’s home Wednesday evening — just hours after the arrest.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters that the targeting of a Supreme Court justice was “behavior that we will not tolerate.”
“Threats of violence, and actual violence, against the justices, of course, strike at the heart of our democracy,” Mr. Garland said. “We will do everything we can to prevent them and to hold people who do them accountable.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Biden condemned the reported planned attack and wanted to see legislation to help increase funding for the security of Supreme Court justices.
“As the president has consistently made clear, public officials, including judges, must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety, or that of their families, and any violence threats or threats of violence or attempts to intimidate justices have no place in our society. He has said that himself, and we have been forceful from the podium,” she said.
Nexus for violence
In the draft opinion, published by Politico, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said abortion laws should return to the state legislatures, thus overturning 1973’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Justice Kavanaugh is reported to be among the justices signaling support for the ruling.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the draft was not a final ruling, and he ordered an investigation into who at the court leaked the document.
The Homeland Security Department warned Tuesday that the abortion decision could become a nexus for violence.
“Given a high-profile U.S. Supreme Court case about abortion rights, individuals who advocate both for and against abortion have, on public forums, encouraged violence, including against government, religious and reproductive health care personnel and facilities, as well as those with opposing ideologies,” the department said. The warning placed abortion alongside anger at ongoing chaos at the U.S.-Mexico border and the November elections as potential flashpoints.
Polling shows the U.S. facing deep ideological divisions, with those on both sides of the spectrum increasingly willing to embrace violence.
In particular, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a study last week showing a disturbingly high level of support for assassinating politicians who the respondents believed were “harming the country or our democracy.”
Young Democratic men were the most open to the idea, with 44% saying they could countenance such an assassination.
More broadly, Washington has been increasingly on edge. Republicans and Democrats blame each other for ginning up excessive anger among their supporters.
A mentally unstable man with anti-government views shot a Democratic congresswoman in the head at an outdoor meeting with constituents in Arizona in 2011, and a left-wing gunman and supporter of Sen. Bernard Sanders attacked Republican members of Congress gathered for a baseball practice in Northern Virginia in 2017.
More recently, supporters of President Trump invaded the Capitol last year to disrupt the Electoral College count that affirmed Joseph R. Biden’s White House victory. Democrats say Republicans must shoulder the blame for that incident.
Democrats also have said Republicans bear responsibility for the ideological views of the gunman who attacked a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, last month. They said the man’s online rants about “replacement theory” tracked with Republicans’ complaints about illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In the wake of the leaked draft abortion opinion, the justices have had round-the-clock security at their homes. That explains why members of the U.S. Marshals Service were there at 1:05 a.m. when Mr. Roske arrived in the taxi.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said the Marshals and Montgomery County Police acted quickly. The state police and the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center are also assisting in the investigation.
“The heightened security at the homes of the justices began after a request [Virginia Gov. Glenn] Youngkin and I made to Attorney General [Merrick] Garland last month,” he said in a statement.
He demanded that Washington politicians denounce the attempted attack.
The White House has been challenged by the protests outside the justices’ homes, with then-press secretary Jen Psaki repeatedly refusing to condemn the demonstrations at private homes.
Legal scholars said the protesters could run afoul of the law if it is determined they were attempting to obstruct legal proceedings.
Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, said the high court should release the abortion ruling as soon as possible because violence and threats against justices are at an all-time high.
“The danger now is very much not theoretical,” Ms. Severino told Fox News. “This is why we don’t have protests at their houses; we have them at the court.”
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
• Alex Swoyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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