Opinion: Once a proud law and order party, the GOP is taking aim at the FBI
Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
(CNN)Former President Donald Trump’s GOP allies in Congress were only too eager to defend their leader after learning last week that the FBI had carried out a court-authorized search of his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida.
Echoing Trump’s assertions that the search was politically motivated, the former President’s acolytes unleashed a tsunami of attacks against the federal officials and agencies responsible for carrying it out.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia demanded that the FBI be defunded. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida equated the lawful search with “something we have seen many times from 3rd world Marxist dictatorships.”
Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican in the House, slammed the search as “un-American.” And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy decried on Twitter what he called the Justice Department’s “intolerable state of weaponized politicization” under the leadership of Attorney General Merrick Garland.
McCarthy even vowed that if Republicans regain control of the House in November’s midterm elections, Garland would be dragged up to Congress to explain his actions, ordering the attorney general in the same tweet to “preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”
But where was the GOP outrage when a body armor-wearing man carrying a firearm and described in some reports as devoted to Trump attempted to attack an FBI field office last week in Cincinnati?
News reports said the man fired a nail gun in the FBI office, but that no one was injured. Officers later shot and killed the suspect during a police chase.
That same individual — who was also said to be among the Trump supporters at the US Capitol during the violent January 6, 2021, protests — is believed to have posted angry social media posts toward FBI agents for having searched Trump’s Florida home.
Meanwhile, the search warrant released on Friday showed that national security documents were among the items agents were looking for at Mar-a-Lago, leading some Trump backers to mute their criticism of the FBI.
Why aren’t GOP leaders as outspoken in condemning those who have contributed to an “unprecedented” number of threats against the FBI — including the two agents who signed the search warrant — ahead of last week’s search of Trump’s property?
The judge who signed the warrant authorizing the search of Mar-a-Lago has been subjected to an onslaught of online antisemitic attacks. Some threats were so alarming that the Florida synagogue where the magistrate serves on the board of trustees canceled its Friday services as a precaution. Where is the GOP outrage about that?
As of Monday, there had been not even one tweet from McCarthy denouncing the attack in Cincinnati on the FBI, the spike in threats directed at FBI agents or the vile death threats against the judge. We reached out to McCarthy’s office for comment but didn’t hear back.
This silence is in sharp contrast to how the Republican House leader reacted in June after an armed man was accused of threatening Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (The suspect was indicted on a single charge of attempting to assassinate a justice of the United States, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty in the case.)
McCarthy, in his speeches on the House floor, in media appearances and on Twitter, denounced the threats against Kavanaugh and demanded swift action to protect the Trump-appointed justice.
Meanwhile, the baseless and dangerous attacks on the FBI and the federal judge who authorized the search warrant are being alarmingly amplified by the GOP’s media allies. For example, Fox News host Mark Levin declared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show last week that the FBI search warrant is “the gravest attack on our republic in modern history.”
The potential for political violence is not close to ending, including that fomented by Trump. Despite the attack on the FBI’s Cincinnati office, the former President took to his social media site, accusing the bureau of being “corrupt” and suggesting the FBI planted top secret materials and other classified documents found on his property.
Before January 6, we could dismiss Trump’s conduct as simply an attempt to distract from allegations or perhaps to give red meat to his base. But we all saw that after the 2020 election, Trump trafficked in nonstop lies that the election was “stolen” — and a large swath of his supporters believed him. And some of those supporters even went so far as to attack our Capitol on January 6 to interfere with the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
The silence of GOP leaders sends a message that they are angrier at the FBI for conducting a lawful search of Trump’s property than with those making death threats against the bureau. In a post-January 6 America, GOP leaders have an even greater obligation to speak out loudly to denounce any violent acts or even threats from their supporters.
They must call a press conference to denounce threats against the FBI and the federal magistrate, telling people they don’t even want the votes of those who engage in such conduct. Anything less would be sending a dangerous message that the once proud law and order party tolerates — and perhaps even supports — the use of violence to acquire and retain power.