California man arrested for allegedly threatening relatives of Democratic rep, journalist

"We are armed and nearby your house," one of the alleged texts said

A man was arrested in Northern California Tuesday for allegedly threatening the families of Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’, D-N.Y., and a journalist, identified by multiple outlets as ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.

Robert Lemke, 35, allegedly sent a text to Jeffries’ brother and sister-in-law that said the Democratic lawmaker was putting his family at risk "with his lies and other words. We are armed and nearby your house," Politico reported, citing the complaint. 

Jeffries’ brother was reportedly also texted a photo of a house in their neighborhood.

"You had better have a word with him," the alleged text continued. "We are not far from his either. Your words have consequences. Stop telling lies; Biden did not win, he will not be president."

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House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., meets with reporters following a conference call with fellow Democrats, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., meets with reporters following a conference call with fellow Democrats, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Jeffries, who was not identified in the complaint, confirmed it, telling MSNBC the texts were sent at the same time he was being evacuated during the riotous breach of the U.S. Capitol that followed a Trump rally.

He said the especially "chilling" part about the texts was that Lemke claimed President Biden’s electoral win was a "lie."

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"And so he was radicalized by the big lie that [former President] Donald Trump told and that has been supported by so many Republicans in the House and the Senate," he said. "It was clearly designed to instill terror and I’m just thankful that law enforcement officials have apprehended this individual."

In a separate text to a relative of Stephanopoulos, Lemke allegedly wrote,  "Words are putting you and your family at risk. We are nearby armed and ready. Thousands of us are active/retired law enforcement, military, etc. That’s how we do it," Politico reported. 

He was charged with making threatening interstate communications and could face five years in prison if convicted.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in a statement said, "Rather than peaceably disagree, Lemke allegedly threatened to harm those individuals’ families, demanding they retract their statements.

She continued, "The electoral process is the essential mechanism through which our democracy functions. While in any election it is inevitable that some will be disappointed in the result, threats of violence cannot and will not be tolerated."

The head of the FBI office in New York City, William F. Sweeney Jr., said Lemke’s threats "crossed a bright line." 

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He said in a statement, "The FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force is always on watch, and we act with speed to stop violence - whether the threat comes from within our borders or from outside them.  That's how we do it."