WASHINGTON — As Republicans continued to defend former President Donald J. Trump on Sunday after an unprecedented FBI search of his Florida home, deep rifts were visible in the party’s support for law enforcement amid a federal investigation into his treatment. Mr Trump of Top Secret Documents.
Immediately after the search, Congressional Republicans, including members of the leadership, reacted furiously and attacked the country’s top law enforcement agencies. Some called for “defunding” or “destroying” the FBI, and others called in the Nazis’ secret police, using words like “gestapo” and “tyrants.”
On Sunday, more moderate voices in the party chided their colleagues for being broad-minded against law enforcement, making a more subdued advocacy of defending Mr Trump while also overseeing the Justice Department.
Many Republicans called for the release of the affidavit in support of the search warrant issued Monday, which would detail evidence that convinced a judge there was likely reason to believe a search warrant was evidence of crimes. would find. Such documents are usually not made public until the charges are filed.
“It was an unprecedented move that must be backed up by an unprecedented justification,” Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican and a former FBI agent, said on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation. urged my colleagues to make sure they understand the weight of their words.”
Calls for a more cautious tone came as threats arose against law enforcement. A gunman attacked an FBI office in Cincinnati on Thursday, and on Friday the Department of Homeland Security distributed an intelligence bulletin to law enforcement officers across the country warning of “an increase in threats and acts of violence, including armed encounters, against law enforcement officers. , justice and government personnel” after the search.
“The FBI and DHS have observed an increase in violent social media threats against federal officials and facilities, including threats to plant a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI headquarters and general calls for ‘civil war’ and ‘armed wars’. rebellion,” said the bulletin, obtained by DailyExpertNews.
To heighten the sense of alarm, another gunman crashed a car onto a barricade outside the Capitol about 4 a.m. Sunday. After he exited the car and it went up in flames, he fired several shots into the air before committing suicide, Capitol police said.
Mr Fitzpatrick said he had started checking in with his former colleagues at the FBI “to make sure they were okay”.
“We are the world’s oldest democracy, and the only way that can be unraveled is if we disrespect institutions that lead Americans to turn against Americans,” he said, adding: “A lot of it starts with the words we’re making use of.”
Republicans struggle to coalesce around a unified strategy to respond to the FBI’s search for Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, amid daily revelations and rapidly fluctuating statements, apologies , defenses and false accusations by the former president.
On Friday, a federal judge unlocked the warrant authorizing the search and inventory of items removed from the property by federal agents. The list revealed that the FBI recovered 11 sets of classified documents as part of an investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act and two other laws.
More coverage of the FBI search into Trump’s home
Some of the documents were marked “Classified/TS/SCI” – short for “top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information”. Such information is only intended to be viewed in a secure government facility.
Mr. Trump and his allies have argued that former President Barack Obama also mishandled documents (a claim that was quickly dismissed as false by the National Archives); that the judge who signed the warrant authorizing the search must have been biased; that the FBI may have planted evidence; that the documents were covered by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege; and that Mr Trump had released the documents.
The former president has done his best to cash in on the search.
Mr Trump’s Political Action Committee has furiously raised funds for the FBI search, sending at least 17 text messages to donors since Tuesday. “The Democrats broke into the house of Pres. Trump,” someone read. “This is POLITICAL OBJECTIVE!” another claimed. “THEY COMING AFTER YOU!” said a third.
Donald Trump Jr., the son of the former president, wrote another fundraising email on Sunday: “The witch hunt continues… The FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago was a disgrace. In fact, it is INCREDIBLE.”
Also on Saturday, Sen. Rand Paul, Republican from Kentucky, called for the repeal of the Espionage Actone of the statutes that gave rise to the investigation.
But the mixed statements have made it difficult for Republicans, many of whom are eager to please the former president, to come together with a united defense. They are divided on whether to attack the country’s top law enforcement agencies and how aggressive they should be in those attacks.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican used by the National Republican Congressional Committee in fundraising calls, has started selling merchandise that reads “Defund the FBI”
That’s a very different approach from Ohio Representative Michael R. Turner, the top Republican on the intelligence committee, who defended Mr. Trump on Sunday.
Republicans on the committee have said they will continue to support law enforcement. Still, they said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland had tough questions about his decision to take the bold step to search the former president’s home, and promised to hold the Justice Department accountable.
“Obviously no one is above the law,” Mr Turner said on DailyExpertNews’s “State of the Union.” “Donald Trump is not above the law. And Attorney General Garland is not above the law, either. And Congress has the powers of oversight. He must obey.”
Mr Turner said he was not convinced “whether or not this is classified material and whether or not it reaches the level of the highest classified material”, despite the documents released by the court.
“I would be surprised if he has actual documents that reach the level of an imminent threat to national security,” Mr Turner said.
However, two of the laws referenced in the search warrant make the confiscation or concealment of government documents a crime, regardless of whether they relate to national security. The third, which prohibits the unauthorized retention of material with restricted national safety information, applies regardless of whether the material is classified.
Republican leaders in the Senate and House, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, have also said Mr. Garland must provide answers.
Mr Garland, for his part, held a press conference on Thursday to defend the way the Justice Department has handled the case.
“Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly, without fear or favour,” he said. “Under my supervision, that is exactly what the Department of Justice is doing.”
The White House, trying to avoid the appearance of partisan interference, has been reluctant to comment on the investigation. “We don’t interfere. We are not being informed,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding, “We are going to let Merrick Garland speak for himself and his department.”
But other Democrats immediately seized on the Republicans’ anti-law enforcement statements.
“I used to think the Republican Party was behind law enforcement,” Minnesota Democrat Senator Amy Klobuchar said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And I hope some of them do today, because this kind of rhetoric is very dangerous for our country.”
She pointed out that when viewing classified documents, she must do so in a secure area. “I can’t even wear my Fitbit,” she said.
Representative Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat and the chairman of the intelligence committee, has called on the director of national intelligence to conduct an “immediate assessment and damage assessment” and give a secret briefing to Congress about the potential damage to national security through Mr Trump’s handling of documents.
“The fact that they were in an unsafe place that is guarded with nothing more than a padlock or whatever security they had in a hotel is very alarming,” he said on “Face the Nation.”
Ohio Senator Rob Portman, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, called on his panel to review Mr. Garland to investigate.
“Never has a former president and potential political opponent of the incumbent president been subjected to such a search,” Mr Portman said in a statement. “The Attorney General and the FBI should now demonstrate unprecedented transparency and explain to the American people why they authorized the raid.”
South Dakota Republican Senator Mike Rounds took a similar approach.
“I’m not one of those individuals who say, you know, ‘immediately attack the FBI or the Justice Department,'” he told “Meet the Press.”
“But,” he added, “I think it’s very important in the long term for the Justice Department, now that they’ve done this, that they show that this wasn’t just another fishing expedition.”