By Mike Kaszuba
Five months after Rod Grams took office in the mid-1990s, the FBI investigated a death threat against Minnesota’s newest U.S. senator from an individual who threatened to shoot Grams and then take his own life, according to newly-released agency files.
The threat against Grams, a former TV news anchor in the Twin Cities, came from a male individual who appeared to blame the newly-elected Republican senator for his problems with the Internal Revenue Service. The caller, who may have used a Minnesota phone number but was not located by the FBI, also threatened to kill then-President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
The files were obtained by Public Record Media, a non-profit based in St. Paul, as part of a public records request for FBI files on prominent deceased Minnesotans. Grams, who died in 2013 of natural causes, served one term in the U.S. Senate after being elected in 1994. He lost a re-election bid in 2000 to DFLer Mark Dayton, Minnesota’s current governor.
Death threats against Grams, Wellstone
In the 1990s, Grams represented Minnesota in the U.S. Senate along with the late Paul Wellstone, a Democrat who also received death threats after opposing the first Gulf War in 1991. According to federal records obtained by Minnesota Public Radio after Wellstone’s death in a 2002 plane crash, the FBI placed a “trap and trace” device on Wellstone’s office phone in St. Paul in an effort to find the callers making the threats. The FBI had long kept records on Wellstone, a one-time anti-war protestor, and the agency initially probed the plane crash to determine whether the tragedy may have been linked to the death threats.
The death threat in Gram’s case occurred in June of 1995. The individual reportedly provided only his first name to Grams’ office in Anoka, and a memo to the FBI director from the agency’s Minneapolis office in September of 1995 said agents were unable to locate the caller.
FBI investigates threat against Grams
Records show that the agency interviewed an unidentified woman about the threatening phone call. According to the records, the woman admitted that she called Gram’s office that same day, but noted that she “had only nice things to say.” She told the FBI that she had no husband, lived alone, and did not know anyone having problems with the IRS.
FBI records reviewed by PRM showed that the threat was forwarded to the director of the FBI labeled as “routine,” but that both the Capitol Police and the Secret Service office in Minneapolis were alerted. The file noted that, at the time, no other threats had been made to Grams’ office.
The male caller told Grams’ office that “this problem with the IRS made him so angry that he wanted to shoot Bill, Rod and Newt and was then going to shoot himself.” He also told Grams’ office, according to FBI records, that “if he did live long enough he was going to spit on their graves.” The caller, in addition, added: “Let me ask you one question, why didn’t the Russians blow up this f—— country when they had the chance?”
Records stated that the individual complained of having to pay a 10 percent penalty for prematurely withdrawing money from an Individual Retirement Account [IRA].
A staffer from Grams’ office told the FBI that the individual, who “sounded approximately 30 years old and spoke in an effeminate way”, called back a short time later the same day and was again belligerent. An FBI memo stated that a staffer in Grams’ office made their own attempt to trace the initial phone call, but had been unsuccessful.
FBI may hold additional files
Though Grams also served in the U.S. House of Representatives, and later attempted a political comeback by running unsuccessfully for the U.S. House, the death threat is the only entry in the initial release of Grams’ FBI file. An October 4 letter from the FBI’s Records Management Division to PRM stated that “additional records potentially responsive to your subject may exist.”