Twitter removes rep's tweet threatening Beto O'Rourke with AR

Tweet violated rules against violence

By Veronica Stracqualursi and Donie O'Sullivan, CNN

(CNN) - Twitter has removed a Texas state lawmaker's post that was seen as a threat to presidential candidate Beto Rourke for his comments about his plan for a mandatory gun buyback program during Thursday's Democratic debate.

During the debate, O'Rourke reiterated his support for a mandatory buyback of assault-style rifles -- a proposal he backed in the wake of a mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, in August.

"Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47," the former Texas congressman said, and then posted on Twitter.

In response to O'Rourke's comment, Republican Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain tweeted at the Texas Democrat Thursday night using his birth name: "My AR is ready for you Robert Francis."

"This is a death threat, Representative. Clearly, you shouldn't own an AR-15—and neither should anyone else," O'Rourke replied on Twitter.

Cain wrote back, "You're a child Robert Francis."

O'Rourke's press secretary Aleigha Cavalier told CNN, "We are reporting to FBI."

Cain's tweet was live on the social media platform for more than two hours before it was pulled down from Twitter on Thursday.

A Twitter spokesperson told CNN Cain's tweet was removed because it violated the company's rules against violence and wishing harm against others.

Twitter's rules on safety specifically states, "you may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people."

Cain accused O'Rourke Friday of spinning his tweet into a death threat.

He told CNN his words were "not a true threat at all," but a reflection of the popular Texas saying, "Come and Take It."

"What this really shows is how, how dangerous some of this is that people want to try and spin somebody's words in order to try and take their guns away," he told CNN. "And Beto O'Rourke knew that. He knew exactly what it was, and he seized the day to try and make some news."

O'Rourke said Friday that his campaign had contacted the FBI and Twitter about Cain's tweet. He applauded Twitter for taking down the post.

"Anytime you have somebody threatening use of violence against somebody in this country to resolve a political issue or really for any reason, that's a matter for law enforcement," O'Rourke said Friday on CNN's "New Day." "But it really drives home the point, better than I could have made. Representative Briscoe Cain is making the case that no one should have an AR-15. That they can hold over someone else in this country, say, look, if we disagree on something, let me introduce you to my AR-15. Absolutely wrong."

O'Rourke had told CNN earlier Friday that Cain's tweet was a "really irresponsible thing for him to do, especially somebody who is a public servant and in a position of public trust."

CNN has reached out to the US Secret Service, along with Texas authorities. The FBI declined to comment on the tweets.

Cain told CNN on Friday that the FBI has not reached out to him.

He quipped he has a feeling that his tweet -- along with O'Rourke's response -- will "work out for both of our bases."

CNN's Ed Lavandera, Ashley Killough, Leyla Santiago, DJ Judd, Kate Sullivan and Gregory Krieg contributed to this report.

Statement from law firm where Cain works

The Fulton Strahan Law Group lists Cain as one of the firm's attorneys. On Saturday, the firm released a statement, saying Cain would not be fired.

"Based on the phone calls and activity on social media regarding State Rep. Briscoe Cain's twitter response to Beto O'Rourke, the world seems to be waiting for our firm to issue the standard apology and sheepishly announce that he has been terminated.

"Those who anticipate this type of response do not know this firm. Just as we fight relentlessly to protect our clients' rights, we would be remiss not to do the same for our staff. Our staff is an eclectic group of races, genders, and political views. Just as we have declines to terminate employees who express anti-gun views, we also decline to enter this argument.

"The Founding Partner of the firm is a decorated war veteran who served this country so that people can enjoy basic constitutional rights like freedom of speech. Although the partners would not have posted the comment that State Rep. Cain posted, we refuse to engage in social media vigilantism.

"We would ask all those 'tolerant' people out there making threats against our firm to please respect our staff's time as they work to provide the high level of service that is a trademark of the firm."

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