Jena Griswold Sees 600 Percent Spike in Threats Since Trump Challenge

CO SOS Jena Griswold donald trump

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, supported the unsuccessful effort to block former President Donald Trump from her state’s ballot — on the grounds that he had engaged in “insurrection” by inciting the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. In return, she received an escalating torrent of abuse and violent threats. 

In the seven months since Colorado residents first sued the state to keep Trump off the ballot, bringing Griswold in as a co-defendant, the number of serious threats leveled against Griswold increased more than 600 percent, according to data her office provided to Rolling Stone. The threats directed at Griswold spiked amid the high-profile Colorado court case designed to block Trump from the ballot under the 14th Amendment, which bars insurrectionists from holding office — an effort that was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month. 

That day, she received an email declaring: “We are coming for you bitch.” Another person emailed, “If you have kids, I hope they get murdered by illegal aliens,” adding, “Seriously, just die.” 

In a voicemail, someone said, “I can’t wait to find you and follow you to your house and expose your address.” Another person left a voicemail saying, “I’d love for you to die.” Some time this month, a person told Griswold on social media, “Take my advice and wear Kevlar … a lot of Kevlar!!!” 

“It’s scary,” Griswold says in an interview. “When I’m told repeatedly that I will be killed, I take it seriously. I worry about my family. I worry about people around me.”

The threats documented by Griswold’s office are not happening in a vacuum: Trump-inspired political death threats have skyrocketed across the country, with top election officials in several key swing states warning of potential waves of chaos and intimidation tactics aimed at election workers, state officials, and elected politicians. Many of the threats are related to a central, baseless lie perpetuated by Trump and his allies: that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen from him by President Joe Biden. 

“This Big Lie from 2020 has morphed into a Big Threat,” says Griswold. “At the secretary-of state-level and local levels across the nation, we are seeing extreme threats to election administrators — which are really fueled by elected officials or prominent people like Donald Trump, who spread disinformation, repeat the Big Lie, [and] undermine confidence. … This is the new MAGA strategy: spread lies and disinformation, undermine faith in our elections, disenfranchise voters, and intimidate election workers.”

The threats against Griswold come in a climate of increasingly violent discourse in American political life ahead of the 2024 presidential race. Trump supporters have threatened judges and prosecutors in his various criminal and civil trials, and members of Congress opposed to him. 

In January, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland warned of “a deeply disturbing spike in threats against those who serve the public.” The Department of Justice created an Elections Threats Task Force in the summer of 2021 to help prosecute threats against election officials and poll workers. The task force has prosecuted at least 20 people for threatening election officials, part of a broader increase in threat-related workloads for federal prosecutors over the past few years. As Rolling Stone previously reported, threat-related cases prosecuted by the Justice Department have increased 47 percent in the past five years, compared with the comparable prior period. 

Some have criticized the Justice Department for not doing enough. “As cautious a person as Attorney General Merrick Garland is, I think he is being far too cautious here, when it comes to these investigations and prosecutions of threats against election administrators and election workers,” Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, a Democrat, told Rolling Stone in January. 

Griswold notes that two men who threatened her have been prosecuted, with one pleading guilty in 2022 and another being convicted. However, she says: “Just looking through the threats we have seen — that my office has seen since September to the beginning of March against me — multiply that against every prominent secretary of state who has stood up and said Donald Trump is trying to steal this election. How is it possible that only 20 cases have been prosecuted by the DOJ? How is that possible?”

Now, Griswold’s office is opening the book on the 788 serious threats tallied by her team — and the constant violent, and often gendered, abuse she has received since September. 

“In terms of the threat environment, speaking the truth about Donald Trump’s actions and MAGA extremists is met with countless sexist and violent threats,” she says.

The messages contain frequent threats of rape and sexual violence. There is a steady stream of content with nooses and guillotines, and incessant messaging about tribunals and executions — be it by firing squad, alligator pits, or helicopter rides.

“I would love to see this arrogant fucking cunt dead,” one person posted on social media in September. In November, someone posted, “You’re being monitored Jena, phones, texts emails, everything.” The next month, one person wrote online, “You better keep your doors locked and sleep with one eye open.” 

In January, someone left a voicemail for Griswold saying, “I hope you fucking die. I hope your fucking family dies. I hope every fucking idiot that works … even thinks you’re a decent person … I hope they fucking die too because you’re all fucking scumbags.”

Many of those threatening Griswold did so in the unique dialect of QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy cult whose members believe that celebrities and politicians are involved in a satanic cannibal cult that Trump will ultimately bring to justice.

Political revenge fantasies are a key feature of QAnon mythology. In particular, some adherents believe that one day Trump’s political enemies in government and society will be arrested and sent to the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay to stand trial in a tribunal. 

People making threats frequently referenced the fantasy, peppering messages with acronyms like “NCSWIC” (“nothing can stop what is coming,” a QAnon reference to the arrests of Trump’s enemies) and pledges that Griswold would soon face execution. 

“She [sic] haunted by the view of GITMO as she swings back and forth kicking out wildly trying to find ground,” one Trump supporter drooled in a social media post. Another QAnon-inspired message says, “Colorado secretary of state. Tried. Convicted. Executed,” and includes a picture of Griswold next to the word “Execute.”

The bar required for violent, often deranged messages sent to public officials to be considered a criminal offense can still be high, given the broad leeway for even appalling speech afforded by the First Amendment. 


“Many who are threatening [officials] are walking the line to avoid accountability,” Griswold notes, but she says the files released by her office contain “prosecutable threats.” She argues law enforcement and prosecutors are not taking the threats against secretaries of state and election workers seriously.

“There has been a failure to adequately protect the secretaries of state and election officials who are at the front lines of protecting our democracy, and adequately prosecute the people who are trying to intimidate us out of our jobs,” Griswold says.

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