Basking Ridge man charged in Trump Tower bombing plot
BERNARDS — They describe him as a self-radicalized, home-grown extremist and aspiring terrorist. And he's from one of the toniest ZIP codes in the country, not far from where President Trump likes to vacation.
Jonathan Xie, 20, of the Basking Ridge section of this township, is facing federal terrorism charges after the FBI said he donated to Islamic terrorist groups and openly plotted on social media to bomb Trump Tower and the Israeli embassy in Manhattan.
He was arrested Wednesday. New Jersey 101.5 did not know whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
“Homegrown violent extremists like Xie are a serious threat to national security,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said. “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."
FBI said it spotted Xie outside Trump Tower on April 20.
On Instagram, he posted two photos of the building captioned “I want to bomb Trump Tower" and “[S]hould I bomb Trump Tower" with a poll and a bomb emoji on the building.
Later on Instagram he said: “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.”
The earliest connection to terrorism that the criminal complaint against Xie lays out was in December, when he sent a $100 Moneygram to a person he believed to be associated with the terrorist group Al-Qassam Brigades.
The feds say Xie went live on his Instagram in April wearing a black ski mask and saying that he wanted to join Hamas in Gaza. He showed a Hamas flag and a handgun and said that he was going to a "pro-Israel march and I’m going to shoot everybody.”
In other videos he said: “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 vehicle to go on a rampage . . . I do not care if security forces come after me, they will have to put a bullet in my head to stop me.”
In April, Xie sent an Al-Qassam Brigades website link to someone he believed wanted to donate money but was an undercover FBI employee, the feds charge.
In February, the feds say Xie said he wanted to join the U.S. Army “to learn how to kill ... So I can use that knowledge ... If I should do lone wolf.That is why I have to learn military techniques from the Army . . . ”
According to the criminal complaint against him, Xie completed two Security Clearance Applications for National Security Positions in February in an effort to join the Army. He answered "no" when asked if he "EVER associated with anyone involved in activities to further terrorism?”
The feds say Xie's YouTube account contained videos advocating for terrorist groups in Syria and Yemen and videos that supported Syrian President Bashar al Assad, executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and North Korea.
Feds did not say when Xie first came on the FBI's radar but FBI-Newark Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie said the case "illustrates the value of public awareness and participation."
"When you report suspicious activity, you become a force multiplier in the mission to keep America safe," he said Wednesday.
“The threat from homegrown violent extremists who self-radicalize remains persistent," said FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Michael McGarrity.
Xie was charged with two counts of attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, two counts of making false statements and one count of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce.
Basking Ridge is a 15 to 20-minute drive from the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, where the president often spends time away from the White House.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email email@example.com.