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FBI arrests man for threat to bomb Az Sec State Katie Hobbs

A Massachusetts man was arrested by FBI agents on Friday for threatening to blow up Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs just months after the 2020 election when Joe Biden won by over 10,000 votes.

James W. Clark, 38, from Falmouth, Mass., was indicted by a grand jury on July 22 and charged with three counts, including making a bomb threat, making a bomb hoax, and making an interstate threat. In an indictment unsealed last week, the grand jury said that on Valentine's Day 2021, Clark "willfully made a threat, and maliciously conveyed false information," by using the Arizona Secretary of State's Office website to send a threat, saying that if Hobbs didn't resign, he would detonate an explosive device.

"Your attorney general needs to resign by Tuesday February 16th by 9 am or the explosive device impacted in her personal space will be detonated," Clark wrote.

Clark was apparently unclear on Hobbs' role in Arizona's government. Mark Brnovich, a Republican, is the current attorney general for Arizona. Hobbs is an elected Democrat, now running for governor.

"Just yesterday, law enforcement arrested the man who threatened my life with a bomb in the days after Jan. 6.," Hobbs said on Twitter. "Election lies have consequences, (and) those who peddle them are unfit for ANY elected office. I will never stop protecting the will of (Arizona) voters."

"The FBI takes all threat-to-life matters very seriously," said Chris Ormerod, acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s Phoenix field office. "While this arrest demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to hold accountable anyone who tries to intimidate a public official, it also shows that people cannot threaten others with violence and physical harm without repercussions."

"Throughout Arizona, we are fortunate to have highly professional state, county and local officials who administer elections in a fair and impartial manner," said U.S. Attorney Gary M. Restaino. "Democracy requires that we support those officials, and that we take seriously allegations of threats or violence against them."

Before making his threat, Clark used a web browser to search for Hobbs' address, and searched for "how to kill" her. He also searched for "fema boston marathon bombing" and "fema boston marathon bombing plan digital army," after he threatened to blow up Hobbs in her office.

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Three people were killed and hundreds were injured when two bombs made from pressure cookers exploded at the finish line of the 2013 Boston marathon. While Clark searched for methods, his claims were a hoax, officials said.

Clark faces up to 10 years in prison for the bomb threat, and up to five years in prison for a bomb hoax and five years for making threats over interstate communications, said Yvette Cantu, a Justice Department spokeswoman.

'Audit' confirms results, but also promoted 'disinformation'

Following Trump's loss to Biden in November 2020, there was a flurry of conspiracies surrounding the election, largely focused on Maricopa County, though some claims also fell on Pima County. As election conspiracies reached a fever pitch, the Arizona state senate led by Karen Fann hired a company to "audit" the 2020 election results. Ultimately, the company Cyber Ninjas confirmed the results of the election in Maricopa County, but not before releasing a report that contained a series of misleading claims.

As the Maricopa County Elections Department put it, while post-election audits can "build trust and promote election integrity" when they have bipartisan oversight and "are conducted by experienced, unbiased professionals" using "well-defined, proven processes to provide quantifiable, reproducible proof."

However, the Senate’s election review and its contractors "fell far short of those standards and instead promoted disinformation and distrust."

As one audit subcontractor put it, "audit" leaders were "self-serving grifters."

Nonetheless, Republican candidates have made election conspiracies the center of many campaigns, arguing Trump's loss in November 2020 was caused by a mix of methods, including an Italian satellite, bamboo-laden ballots, special marking pens, hacked voting machines, and an effort by Democrats to use "mules" to turn in extra ballots. All of these conspiracies are without foundation or evidence, but nonetheless some Trump supporters have made their bones promoting them.

One claim from Cyber Ninjas was slapped down by Brnovich on Monday. The company claimed at least 282 votes in the 2020 election came from people who had died before October 2020. However, Brnovich said investigators with his office found voters listed as deceased were "found to be current voters."

"Our agents investigated all individuals that Cyber Ninjas reported as dead, and many were very surprised to learn they were allegedly deceased," Brnovich wrote.

Justice Dep't launches task force, announces 'election officer'

"Illegal threats of violence put election officials and workers at risk and undermine the bedrock of our democracy: free and fair elections," said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. "Our Election Threats Task Force, working with partners across the nation, will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute illegal threats like these to hold accountable those who threaten our democracy."

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Tanya Senanayake, with the Justice Department's Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean K. Lokey for the District of Arizona are prosecuting the case.

Last week, Restaino said Lokey will act as Arizona's "elections officer" overseeing complaints of voter rights violations and claims of election fraud.

Clark's prosecution is part of the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force, created by Attorney General in June 2021, Cantu said. Led by Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, the task force will review "threats of violence against election workers" and "ensure that all election workers — whether elected, appointed, or volunteer — are able to do their jobs free from threats and intimidation."

The task force includes Justice Department officials, as well as members of the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Cantu said.

Suspected threats or violent acts connected with the election can be reported to the nearest FBI field office, and people should ask to speak with the Election Crimes Coordinator, said Cantu. People can also call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324), or file an online complaint at: tips.fbi.gov.

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A woman uses a voting booth during Pima County's mock election in June 2022.

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