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How a Liberal Lawyer in Georgia Took an Extreme Right Turn


The trigger appeared to be gun control. Mr. Calhoun had not always been obsessed with guns, friends said. But in the fall of 2019, some Democratic politicians began talking of ambitious new gun restrictions and it seemed to flip a switch. Mr. Calhoun said as much himself.

“I was a Democrat for 30 years,” he wrote in a recent social media post. The new gun control proposals changed that, he said. “I was called a white supremacist and a racist for defending the 2A,” he continued, using a shorthand for the Second Amendment. Given all that he had done as a lawyer for “justice,” he said, “that hurt my feelings a little. That’s when I became a Trump supporter.”

His conversion was total. By the fall of 2020 he was posting about a looming “domestic communist problem” and the “rioting BLM-Antifa crime wave.” Of Joe Biden, he wrote: “Hang the bastard.”

Old friends were baffled, and some grew nervous. “I’ll be slinging enough hot lead to stack you commies up like cordwood,” Mr. Calhoun wrote on Twitter in October. Then, a few days later: “Standing by, and when Trump makes the call, millions of heavily armed, pissed off patriots are coming to Washington.”

After the election, Mr. Calhoun held a small gun rights rally in town, and the violent posts continued, with talk of civil war, mounting heads on pikes and showing the Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar “what the bottom of the river looks like.” In December, a reporter for The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, found Mr. Calhoun buying a Confederate flag outside a Trump rally. “This is about independence and freedom,” Mr. Calhoun told the reporter, describing Trumpism and Southern secession as similarly justified fights against tyranny.

On Jan. 6, Mr. Calhoun’s posts showed he had made his way inside the U.S. Capitol with the mob. “The first of us who got upstairs kicked in Nancy Pelosi’s office door,” he wrote in one post. “Crazy Nancy probably would have been torn into little pieces, but she was nowhere to be seen.”

A week later, federal agents arrested him at his sister’s house in Macon, Ga., where he had stockpiled two AR-15-style assault rifles, two shotguns, a handgun, brass knuckles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, according to the testimony of an F.B.I. agent.

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