An Arizona man indicted in October for threatening to kill Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told police he was likely reacting to a Fox News segment when he left the alcohol-fueled voicemail, according to newly filed court documents.
Jan Peter Meister, a convicted sex offender with a long rap sheet, was indicted on Oct. 23, 2019 for leaving the voicemail with Schiff’s Washington, D.C. office. After a search of Meister’s residence, prosecutors also charged him with illegal possession of firearms, including a loaded .380 caliber handgun, a 9mm handgun and an American Tactical Rifle, along with 700 rounds of ammunition.
A motion filed late last week by Meister’s attorneys revealed a portion of his interview with police during which Meister apologized for making the call and said that he may have been reacting to commentary on Fox News.
“Meister responded that he watches Fox News and likely was upset at something that he saw on the news. He stated that he strongly dislikes the Democrats, and feels they are to blame for the country's political issues,” according to the police summary of the interview. “Meister stated that he likely Goggled [sic] the congressman’s office number to make the call.”
Meister, who has pleaded not guilty to both charges, is scheduled to stand trial on March 9. A spokesman for Schiff, the lead impeachment manager, declined to comment.
The filing was first highlighted by The Informant, a new publication focusing on violent extremism.
The episode is a harrowing example of the routine threats facing high-profile lawmakers and other officials in Washington, D.C., amid a deeply divisive impeachment inquiry that has thrust Schiff and other top Democrats into national prominence. Schiff, along with at least some of the other six House Democrats prosecuting the case against Trump, has been seen with permanent police details in recent months as he walks through the Capitol complex.
President Donald Trump has lately attacked Schiff perhaps more than any of his other political adversaries, often taking to Twitter to harangue the House Intelligence Committee chairman as “corrupt,” “shifty” and “criminal.” The president has also suggested several times that Schiff should be arrested for “treason,” a crime punishable by death. His attacks are often echoed on Fox, where Schiff is frequently featured as a villain during primetime opinion shows.
Lawmakers often emphasize that the intensity of the rhetoric in Washington is not an excuse for violence. But it has fueled other recent threats on lawmakers, including the 2017 attack that nearly killed House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
Scalise was shot several times on a baseball field in Virginia where he and other GOP lawmakers were practicing for the annual congressional baseball game. The gunman had professed views that were hostile toward Republicans, and the episode led to a short-lived call among lawmakers to de-escalate Washington’s increasingly hostile rhetoric.
According to prosecutors, Meister left a threatening, expletive-laden voicemail message with Schiff’s Washington, D.C. office on Oct. 1.
“Yeah, go f— your mother, you son of a b—- cause I’m gonna f—ing blow your brains out you f—ing piece of s— mother, f—–, you’re a f—-ing piece of s—,” Meister allegedly said.
When federal agents arrived at his residence to serve a warrant on Oct. 25, he allegedly cursed at them and said, unsolicited, “F— Adam Schiff.” Additionally, one of the agents who arrested him “noted a strong odor of alcohol emanating” from Meister, according to a Justice Department filing.
Federal authorities pressed for Meister’s pretrial detention, noting that he faces a five-year sentence for threatening Schiff and a 10-year sentence for the gun charge. They said he should be considered a flight risk because of his minimal ties to the community. Prosecutors noted that Meister’s record includes convictions for a 1989 rape as well as another sex offense, a DUI and assault in 2000, and disorderly conduct in 2001.
Meister, who has been detained pending his trial, has argued that he never intended to make good on the threat to Schiff.
“Mr. Meister is charged with making a drunken phone call in which he threatened a United States Congressman. Although serious, the congressman lived in Washington, D.C. and Mr. Meister lives in a trailer in Tucson,” his attorneys argued in November seeking his release pending trial. “Mr. Meister has no ties to Washington or the ability to travel there and there is little evidence he could have carried out his alleged threat.”
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