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How much risk of violence is there for Trump's Miami courthouse appearance?

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Let's turn to Donald Trump. The former president has called on supporters to gather in Miami tomorrow, where he's expected to make his courthouse appearance. He made the call, as usual, on social media. In 2021, it was a tweet from Trump that many view as one igniting factor behind the insurrection of January 6. The extremism landscape may have shifted since then. NPR domestic extremism correspondent Odette Yousef is here to explain. Hey, Odette.

ODETTE YOUSEF, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Set the stage for us. What's the chatter been like within far-right circles over the last few days?

YOUSEF: Well, Ari, there's been an uptick in online rhetoric about a coming civil war, which is a favorite theme in extremist circles, also, you know, calls to violence against perceived political enemies. And there's been some concern about violent speech specifically targeting Attorney General Merrick Garland and special counsel Jack Smith. And then there's been another category of activity, which has been calls to gather - so, you know, certain people or groups organizing rallies at the courthouse. But so far, Ari, extremism researchers are saying that those two categories don't appear to be overlapping much. You know, we're not really seeing those rally organizers calling for or preparing for violence. And so they're not picking up the same kind of clear, troubling signals that they were in the run up to January 6.

SHAPIRO: Although if people were planning for - preparing for violence, would they be advertising that on social media?

YOUSEF: Yeah, I mean, that's a really good point, especially because the criminal investigations and the arrests related to January 6 really drove the far right into more secure, encrypted private spaces for their communications. And now many of those communications may not even be happening online at all. Here's Jared Holt with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

JARED HOLT: If conversations are happening offline, which increasingly they are in far-right organizing, you know, we wouldn't have visibility into it. It's a little bit of a wild card. Generally speaking, if there was going to be a big far-right mobilization, I would expect somebody to post something, and we would find it.

YOUSEF: But, Ari, Holt says there's just so much paranoia on the far right now when anyone calls for a mass gathering. You know, people accuse the organizers of trying to set a trap to catch Trump supporters. So often, these calls end up getting a small number of people like we saw today at a rally where reporters outnumbered the protesters.

SHAPIRO: Well, if people are organizing offline, where would that organization actually be taking place?

YOUSEF: So to answer this question, you really have to understand a couple things about how the far right has changed since January 6. First, they really shifted from organizing nationally to organizing locally. And they've moved on to issues unrelated to Trump, which have appealed to a whole variety of conservatives. Lately, it's been the anti-LGBTQ campaign. So we're seeing, you know, religious groups, mom's groups, white nationalists and extremists like the Proud Boys all show up to protest things like drag queen story hours, which means they're physically in the same spaces. They're meeting each other, and they're forming offline connections that they can then carry on.

SHAPIRO: So if extremism researchers are not raising alarms about a big gathering in Miami tomorrow, what does concern them right now?

YOUSEF: You know, there still is a real concern that the elevated rhetoric that we're seeing could tip a radicalized individual into violence. And, you know, we saw this when federal authorities executed their search warrant for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, for example. You know, somebody then attempted to attack an FBI field office in Cincinnati. And, you know, Ari, that sort of threat is concerning because it's always there. It could happen really anywhere in the country. And frankly, it's much harder to detect ahead of time.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Odette Yousef. Thanks a lot.

YOUSEF: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Odette Yousef
Odette Yousef is a National Security correspondent focusing on extremism.