Federal Prosecutors Charge Man With Making Death Threat Against Whistleblower Attorney

February 20, 2020 Updated: February 20, 2020

A Michigan man was charged by federal prosecutors with sending a death threat to an attorney representing the person who filed a complaint against President Donald Trump last year, widely known as the whistleblower.

Brittan Atkinson sent the email on or about Nov. 7, 2019, to the attorney.

“All traitors must die miserable deaths,” Atkinson wrote, according to an indictment unsealed on Thursday. “Those that represent traitors shall meet the same fate .We will hunt you down and bleed you out like the pigs you are. We have nothing but time, and you are running out of it.”

Atkinson told the lawyer that he should “keep looking over your shoulder” and informed him that “we know who you are, where you live, and who you associate with.”

Mark Zaid, one of the attorneys representing the whistleblower, said in a statement that the attorney who received the threat was him.

“It’s not appropriate for anyone to threaten another individual’s life, regardless of political views. My job was to ensure the rule of law was followed in how whistleblowers are treated. That role should not be negatively weaponized by partisans,” he said in a statement.

“I hope this indictment sends a message to others that such behavior will not be tolerated by a civil society that is governed by law.”

Atkinson was arrested and is being held until a Feb. 24 detention hearing, according to court records. The indictment was filed in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan. He was charged with violating interstate communications, which includes any communications “containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another.”

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A member of the audience holds a copy of the whistleblower complaint letter sent to Senate and House Intelligence Committees during testimony by Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 26, 2019. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

Atkinson’s wife, Theresa Atkinson, told NBC News his arrest left her “speechless.”

“Was his email tactful? No, it wasn’t. Was it kind of disturbing? Yes, it was,” she said from her home in Beaverton, Michigan.

“But him along with several other people in this country are fed up with the [expletive]. They just want the country to run.”

She described her husband as a former construction worker who currently lacks income and is disabled.

“He’s not in a group of anything except his little clan that plays video games,” she said. “He’s nothing. He’s no one. He sometimes has a big mouth and he does get angry, but he is not a threat in any way shape or form and he has a constitutional right to speak.”

The whistleblower’s complaint triggered an impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives, which culminated with Trump being impeached. The Senate acquitted Trump in January.

Trump repeatedly railed against the person, pointing to reports that the whistleblower had a tie to a Democratic presidential candidate. Zaid pushed back, saying the indications of political bias outlined in a report from the inspector general of the intelligence community was “nothing more than” the whistleblower being a registered Democrat.

Andrew Bakaj, another attorney representing the whistleblower, later sent a cease and desist letter to try to stop Trump from criticizing the person.

“I am writing out of deep concern that your client, the President of the United States, is engaging in rhetoric and activity that places my client, the Intelligence Community Whistleblower, and their family in physical danger. I am writing to respectfully request that you counsel your client on the legal and ethical peril in which he is placing himself should anyone be physically harmed as a result of his, or his surrogates’, behavior,” Bakaj wrote to White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

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