Republicans rushed to former President Donald Trump's defense this week when he announced that FBI agents had searched his home at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, and "even broke into my safe!" The agents had a search warrant when they entered the property, reportedly on a tip that Trump or his aides had withheld classified material Trump had been told to hand over after improperly keeping them when he left the White House. But GOP lawmakers blasted the FBI for barging into a former president's home for the first time in U.S. history, and Republicans nationwide launched fundraising bids, Axios reported, hoping to "cash in on the fallout."
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott called for Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray (a Trump appointee) to explain the raid or resign. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said the incident was the latest example of the "weaponization of federal agencies against the regime's political opponents." House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) vowed that Republicans would retake control of the House and launch investigations into the Justice Department. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) tweeted, "DEFUND THE FBI!"
Is the outrage warranted, or will it come back to haunt the GOP?
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
The GOP outrage might be just what the party needs
"Optimistic Democrats" have been banking on a turnout boost in the November midterm elections fueled by anger over the Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision overturning Roe v. Wade (1973), says Michael Barone in the Washington Examiner. Now they have to be concerned that the GOP backlash over the Mar-a-Lago raid will bring out Republican voters in droves. Even GOP governors "who have kept their distance from Trump's 'stop the steal' claims" are publicly calling this incident "politically motivated." And DeSantis' allegation of "the weaponization of federal agencies against the regime's political opponents" hits home among Republicans angry at the FBI, and the Obama and Biden administrations over their flogging of the "Russia collusion hoax" while going easy on Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden. "Nothing in politics is free; there is just some question of when you pay the price."
Republicans will regret turning against law enforcement
"Look who's the 'defund the police' party, now," says Alex Shephard at The New Republic. Republicans' "cynical deployment of pro-police messages" has long been a "mainstay of conservative rhetoric," so it's jarring to see them turning their backs on the Blue in defense of Trump, without even knowing what the FBI agents were looking for, or what they found. "The idea that Trump could have committed crimes was never considered by any of these figures, despite the incredible wealth of evidence to suggest that he has." Donald Trump, they seem to be arguing, shouldn't be investigated because he "exists above the law." The GOP, which was all for locking up Hillary Clinton for mishandling privileged information in her emails, seems to be saying: "The only legitimate law enforcement agencies are the ones that march in lockstep our priorities; brownshirts for me, but not for thee."
This over-the-top rhetoric hurts everybody
McCarthy and other Republicans definitely are placing "politics above patriotism," says The Philadelphia Inquirer in an editorial, but we're all going to pay the price for their pandering. Trump has a well-known "track record of being reckless with secret information," from the time he gave the Russian ambassador highly classified information during a visit to the Oval Office," to his continued "use of his personal cell phone even after being warned" it was easy pickings for foreign spies. "The GOP's shameless assault on the Justice Department and FBI is a dangerous attack on our democracy and the rule of law" that can only further divide the nation and could lead to violence. "What will it take for Republicans to acknowledge that Trump is destroying their party and making a mockery of democracy?"
The DOJ is the one playing with fire
The Justice Department is "unleashing political furies it can't control and may not understand," says The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. It's as if the DOJ and Democrats didn't realize the FBI had a "serious credibility problem" dating to its "abuse of process and public deception" in the "Russia collusion probe." This raid certainly makes it look like Attorney General Merrick Garland is "committed to pursuing and indicting" Trump. But raiding Mar-a-Lago "only about 90 days from a national election also increases the political suspicion. Democrats want to keep Mr. Trump front and center in the midterm campaign," but indicting him would trigger a backlash from Trump's followers, who would see it "as vindication of his charges against the 'deep state.'" It also would justify making Democrats the targets of "payback" the next time the GOP is in power.
Create an account with the same email registered to your subscription to unlock access.