NATIONAL NEWS

GOP backs Trump, escalates dark rhetoric after FBI search

Aug 12, 2022, 2:11 PM | Updated: 2:13 pm
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, second from right, joined by ...
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, second from right, joined by other Republicans on the committee, calls on a reporter during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, on the FBI serving a search warrant at former President Donald Trump's home in Florida. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans in Congress who are relying on Donald Trump to excite voters in the fall elections are not only defending the former president against the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home but politically capitalizing on it with grave and potentially dangerous rhetoric against the nation’s justice system.

The party that once stood staunchly for law-and-order has dramatically reversed course, stirring up opposition to the FBI and tapping into political grievances and far-right conspiracies that fed the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

It’s all part of the GOP’s election year strategy to harness voter outrage over the unprecedented search, quickly and unequivocally set in motion as Trump hosted a dozen Republicans for dinner of steak and scallops at his private Bedminster club the day after the FBI action.

One Republican at the table, Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas, a former sheriff, said he told the former president “loud and clear” that it’s time to protect himself politically by declaring his 2024 campaign for the presidency.

“Mr. President, I said, the American people, your supporters, are concerned with this corrupt DOJ and the FBI.”

“If I were you, sir, announce you’re running for president,” Nehls recalled telling Trump. “Take that doubt, take that anxiety away from the people that want you to be our 47th president.”

The escalating rhetoric comes amid stark warnings of violence against law enforcement, including the Ohio police shooting Thursday of an armed man clad in body armor who tried to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati office and engaged in an hours-long standoff. The day before, FBI Director Christopher Wray had called the threats to agents and DOJ “deplorable.” The FBI has warned its agents to take precautions, citing an increase in social media threats to bureau personnel and facilities. In some extreme cases, GOP lawmakers and others are demanding the FBI be dismantled and defunded.

It’s all coming at a time of blistering attacks on the nation’s civic institutions that experts say is worrisome, if not dangerous, for the future of U.S. democracy. With no branch of government unscathed, the discord risks sowing distrust in the White House, the Congress and the Supreme Court. It has kept security tight in Washington, limiting public access to the government.

“All of this rhetoric is being thrown around without any consideration for possible consequences,” said Frank Montoya Jr., a retired FBI special agent who led the bureau’s field offices in Seattle and Honolulu.

“All that does is stir up that minority within the base that aren’t satisfied with just words, they actually want to act it out.”

Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said, “The vitriol coming from extremists, white supremacists and others, has been overwhelming,” pointing to rhetoric from Trump’s former campaign manager Steve Bannon and others warning of assassinations or calling for civil war.

“We usually expect that from these quarters, but the same kind of rhetoric is coming from prominent Republicans and Trump allies,” she said by email. “These comments coming from Republicans are really worrying as they are mainstreaming violent rhetoric.”

Asked Friday at the Capitol about the responsibility leaders have to tone down the rhetoric and keep the nation calm during times of uncertainty and distress, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy demurred — and blamed Attorney General Merrick Garland.

“I think the attorney general has a real problem here,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy, who is in line to become speaker if his party wins House control, revived Republican concerns that Trump is being treated unfairly, as the first former president to have his home searched by the FBI, and he criticized the attorney general for delivering only a few minutes’ explanation during a press conference.

In McCarthy’s view, it was Garland, not his own party’s rhetoric, that was dividing the nation.

“Why would you pause and not talk to the American public, knowing where the American public is at, that he is just inflaming the public, and why would you only speak for a few moments?” McCarthy said. “So I think the attorney general has a lot of explaining to do.”

Republicans believe the Justice Department has been overly tough on Trump going back to the Russia investigation into allegations the president was colluding with a foreign entity, including when he called on Russia to release emails it had stolen from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential election.

The Republicans contrast the FBI search of Trump’s private club and residence with its treatment of Hillary Clinton, who was investigated for using a private email server in violation of government rules during her time as secretary of state — an offense the led to long chants of “Lock her up!” during Trump rallies.

The No. 3 House Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik, claimed without evidence the Biden administration was “weaponizing” the Justice Department against Trump, a top potential 2024 rival for the White House.

She joined fellow House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee on Friday in demanding information, and vowed if their party wins control in the November election they will find out what happened.

“The House Republican majority will leave no stone unturned when it comes to transparency and accountability into the brazen politicization of Joe Biden’s Department of Justice and FBI targeting their political opponents,” Stefanik said.

Congressional Republicans have said their office phone lines are ringing from constituents outraged over the raid and they said they’ve never seen their colleagues more fired up to fight back — all the way to the November midterm elections.

Rep. Jim Banks, the Indiana Republican who organized the dinner with Trump, said they encouraged the former president to “kick off the campaign now” to seize the moment.

Banks said Trump will be a “big part” of the House Republicans’ campaign to win back the House majority.

House lawmakers returned to session Friday to vote, walking through metal detectors to screen against firearms, a legacy of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. Lawmakers had a security briefing earlier this week to address ongoing threats against lawmakers.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that Trump’s role inciting the insurrection at the Capitol was sufficient cause to have concerns about inflammatory political rhetoric.

“You would think there’s an adult in the Republican room who would say, ‘Just calm down and see what the facts are and let’s go for that,'” Pelosi said, “instead of again instigating assaults on law enforcement.”

One republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, a former FBI agent, called on lawmakers to cool it.

“I don’t think any of this is okay,” Fitzpatrick told reporters.

“We’re the world’s oldest democracy, and that can go away very quickly,” he said. “As our adversaries have said so many times: The only way you defeat America, you’re never going to beat America from the outside, ever. The only way you beat the world’s greatest democracy is from within — turning American on American.”

He said, “So it’s incumbent upon everybody to act in a way that’s becoming of the office they hold — and that’s not casting judgment on anything until you know all the facts.”
__

Associated Press writers Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston, Michelle Price in New York and videojournalist Nathan Ellgren contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

In this NOAA handout image taken by the GOES satellite at 17:30 UTC shows Hurricane Ian as it moves...
CRISTIANA MESQUITA and CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press

Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Cuba en route to Florida

Hurricane Ian has made landfall in western Cuba, lashing the island with rain and winds as it barreled north toward the Florida coast.
5 hours ago
How to Beat Inflation...
CHRISTOPHER RUGABER, AP Economics Writer

Fed officials call for more rate hikes to fight inflation

The Federal Reserve will have to keep boosting its benchmark interest rate to a point that raises unemployment and gets inflation down from unusually high levels.
1 day ago
TOKYO, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 26: Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (R) greets U.S. Vice President Ka...
CHRIS MEGERIAN and MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press

In Tokyo, Harris calls US-Japan alliance ‘a cornerstone’

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris has arrived in Tokyo to lead a U.S. delegation to the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated in July.
1 day ago
AUSTIN, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 20: People wait to shop at the Costco Wholesale store as they look to purc...
Larry D. Curtis

Inflation will not change Costco’s $1.50 hot dog combo — perhaps ever

During a presentation about its fourth-quarter financials, the big box retailer's COO said the price of the hot dog and soda — $1.50 — remains unchanged and said it plans to hold the price "a little longer — forever," according to Market Watch.
1 day ago
An illustration shows NASA's DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency's LICIACube before the co...
Ashley Strickland, CNN

NASA’s DART mission successfully slams into an asteroid

A NASA spacecraft has intentionally slammed into an asteroid in humanity's first test of planetary defense.
1 day ago
Amazon Prime van waiting to depart from the Amazon delivery centre in Channel Commercial Park in Be...
Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

Amazon puts a second Prime Day sale on the calendar

Amazon is adding another Prime Day to the calendar.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
GOP backs Trump, escalates dark rhetoric after FBI search