Coast Guard officer held without bail, incriminating list found on work computer
GREENBELT, Md. — A Coast Guard officer suspected of drawing up a hit list of top Democrats and network TV journalists spent hours on his work computer researching the words and deeds of infamous bombers and mass shooters while also stockpiling weapons, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
Lieutenant Christopher Paul Hasson, 49, was ordered held without bail on drug and gun charges while prosecutors gather evidence to support more serious charges involving what they portrayed as a domestic terror plot by a man who espoused white-supremacist views.
‘‘It’s exactly what Donald Trump is encouraging,’’ said Joe Scarborough, a frequent Trump critic and target of the president’s disdain, during his show Thursday morning on MSNBC.
Besides Scarborough, the list also included MSNBC colleagues Chris Hayes and Ari Melber, and CNN’s Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo, and Van Jones.
Since he took office, Trump has regularly called the work of mainstream journalism organizations ‘‘fake news’’ and accused political journalists, without evidence, of dishonest reporting. He has often referred to journalists as the ‘‘enemy of the people.’’
Trump revived the enemy line on Wednesday, criticizing a New York Times report that said he asked then-acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker whether a perceived loyalist could be put in charge of an investigation into hush money paid to women during the 2016 campaign. ‘‘The New York Times reporting is false,’’ Trump said in a morning tweet. ‘‘They are a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!’’
Hasson, a former Marine who worked at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington on a program to acquire advanced new cutters for the agency, was arrested last week. Investigators gave no immediate details on how or when he came to their attention.
In court papers this week, federal prosecutors said he compiled what appeared to be a computer-spreadsheet hit list that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and presidential hopefuls Sensators Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris, in addition to the television journalists.
In arguing against bail Thursday, federal prosecutor Jennifer Sykes said Hasson would log onto his government computer during work and spend hours searching for information on such people as the Unabomber, the Virginia Tech gunman, and antiabortion bomber Eric Rudolph.
Sykes said the charges so far are just the ‘‘tip of the iceberg’’ and called Hasson a ‘‘domestic terrorist’’ who appeared to be planning attacks inspired by the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in a 2011 bomb-and-shooting rampage.
Public defender Julie Stelzig accused prosecutors of making inflammatory accusations against her client without providing the evidence to back them up. ‘‘It is not a crime to think negative thoughts about people,’’ she said.
Hasson spent about $14,000 on weapons, survival gear, and other equipment, Sykes said. However, Hasson’s public defender argued that the number of firearms found in Hasson’s apartment is ‘‘modest, at best’’ for many gun collectors in other parts of the country.
‘‘There is nothing I’m seeing in here that would show he was stockpiling weapons,’’ Stelzig said.