A New Jersey Man has been arrested and charged for allegedly trying to aid a terrorist organization and bomb Trump Tower in New York, federal agents announced Wednesday.
Jonathan Xie, 20, was charged with attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, making false statements, and transmitting a threat in interstate commerce for allegedly talking about carrying out a series of violent attacks.
Prosecutors alleged that the Chinese national used several social-media accounts to spread terrorist propaganda, including his support for Syrian leader Bashar al Assad, former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein, and the North Korean regime.
“Homegrown violent extremists like Xie are a serious threat to national security,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said Wednesday. “The actions that he took and planned to take made that threat both clear and present, and we commend our law enforcement partners for working closely with us to stop him before he could carry out his plans to commit violence on American soil.”
The 20-year-old’s affinity for extremism first became known to the FBI in December, when Xie sent $100 to an individual he believed was associated with “a faction of Hamas that has conducted attacks, to include suicide bombings against civilian targets inside Israel.” He eventually sent a link about the faction, Al-Qassam Brigade, to an undercover FBI agent and provided screenshots on how to “use a new feature” to send the group donations via Bitcoin.
“Just donated $100 to Hamas. Pretty sure it was illegal but I don’t give a damn,” Xie posted on Instagram.
On April 12, according to the complaint, Xie appeared in an Instagram Live video “wearing a black ski mask and stated that he was against Zionism and the neo-liberal establishment.”
When asked by another Instagram user if he would join Hamas, a extremist Islamist group that has ruled the Gaza Strip for a dozen years, he said he would if he could “find a way,” later displaying the group’s flag.
“I’m gonna go to the [expletive] pro-Israel march and I’m going to shoot everybody,” Xie allegedly said in the video while holding a handgun.
In another April instagram post, the 20-year-old allegedly wrote: “I want to shoot the pro-Israel demonstrators...you can get a gun and shoot your way through or use a vehicle and ram people...all you need is a gun or a vehicle to go on a rampage.”
Less than a week later, FBI surveillance captured Xie outside Trump Tower in New York City. Shortly after, he posted two photos on his Instagram story with the caption: “[S]hould I bomb Trump Tower,” with a “Yes/No” poll and an emoji of a bomb over the building’s image.
“Okay, so I went to NYC today and passed by Trump Tower and then I started laughing hysterically….shit I forgot to visit the Israeli embassy in NYC...i want to bomb this place along with trump tower,” Xie later posted to Instagram on April 20, according to the criminal complaint.
Xie also allegedly tried to enlist in training for the U.S. Army for training earlier in February “to learn how to kill.” The complaint stated, however, that while completing the Security Clearance Application for National Security Positions in, Xie allegedly answered “no” to the question: “Have you ever associated with anyone involved in activities to further terrorism?” Xie had to re-apply 10 days later due to a processing error and answered “no” to the same question again.
“Idk if I pass the training...If I should do long wolf,” he wrote on Instagram before beginning the application process. “That is why I have to learn military techniques from the Army.”
Xie was arrested on Wednesday morning and is expected to appear in Newark federal court on Wednesday evening. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.