Some Republicans make a narrower case for defending Trump

WASHINGTON — As Republicans continued to defend former President Donald J. Trump on Sunday after an unprecedented FBI search of his Florida residence, deep fissures were visible in the party’s support for law enforcement amid a federal investigation into Mr. trump .

In the immediate aftermath of the search, congressional Republicans, including members of the leadership, reacted with fury, attacking the nation’s top law enforcement agencies. Some called for “defunding” or “destroying” the FBI, and others invoked the Nazi secret police, using words like “gestapo” and “tyrants.”

On Sunday, more moderate voices in the party chastised their colleagues for the anti-law enforcement gangs, making a more moderate case for defending Mr. Trump while overseeing the Justice Department.

Many Republicans called for the release of the affidavit supporting the search warrant that was executed last Monday, which would detail the evidence that had persuaded a judge there was probable cause to believe a search would turn up evidence of wrongdoing. These documents are not usually made public before charges are filed.

“It was an unprecedented action that must be supported by unprecedented justification,” Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, Republican of Pennsylvania and a former FBI agent, told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” But he added: “I have urged all my colleagues to make sure they understand the weight of their words.”

Calls for a more cautious tone came as threats against law enforcement emerged. A gunman attacked an FBI office in Cincinnati on Thursday and the Department of Homeland Security on Friday distributed an intelligence bulletin to law enforcement agencies across the country who warned of “an increase in threats and acts of violence, including armed encounters, against police, judicial and government personnel” following the search.

“The FBI and DHS have observed an increase in violent threats posted on social media against federal officials and facilities, including a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI headquarters and issue calls generals for ‘civil war’ and ‘armed war. rebellion,'” said the bulletin, which was obtained by The New York Times.

Adding to the sense of alarm, another gunman crashed a car into a barricade outside the Capitol around 4 a.m. Sunday. After getting out of the car and setting it on fire, he shot himself in the air several times before killing himself, Capitol Police said.

Mr. Fitzpatrick said he had begun checking with his former FBI colleagues “to make sure they were OK.”

“We’re the oldest democracy in the world, and the only way it can come undone is if we have a lack of respect for the institutions that make Americans American,” he said, adding: “A lot of it starts with the words we’re using.”

Republicans have struggled to coalesce around a unified strategy to respond to the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, Mr Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, amid daily revelations and explanations, excuses , rapidly changing defenses and false accusations by the former. president

On Friday, a federal judge released the warrant authorizing the search and an inventory of items taken from the property by federal agents. The list showed that the FBI had recovered 11 sets of classified documents as part of an investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act and two other laws.

Some of the documents were marked “classified/TS/SCI,” short for “secret/sensitive compartmentalized information.” This information should only be viewed in a secure government facility.

Mr. Trump and his allies have argued that former President Barack Obama also mishandled the documents (an allegation 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 could have planted evidence; that the documents were covered by attorney-client or executive privilege; and that Mr. Trump had declassified the documents.

The former president has worked to profit from the research.

The political action committee of Mr. Trump has been furiously fundraising for the FBI probe, sending at least 17 text messages to donors since Tuesday. “Dems broke into Pres. Trump’s home,” read one. “This is POLITICAL GOALS!” another supposed “THEY’RE COMING FOR YOU!” said a third.

Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, wrote another fundraising email on Sunday: “The witch hunt continues… The FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago was a disgrace. In fact, it is UNFAITHFUL.”

On Saturday, Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, as well called for the repeal of the Espionage Actone of the statutes that prompted the investigation.

But the shifting accounts have made it difficult for Republicans, many of whom want to please the former president, to come together with a unified defense. They are split on whether to attack the nation’s top law enforcement agencies and how aggressive those attacks will be.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican whom the Republican National Congressional Committee features in fundraising appeals, has begun selling merchandise that says “Defund the FBI.”

That is a very different approach from Representative Michael R. Turner of Ohio, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, who defended Mr. Trump on Sunday.

Republicans on the committee have said they continue to support enforcement. Still, they said tough questions remained for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland about his decision to take the bold step of ordering a search of the former president’s home, and vowed to hold the Justice Department accountable.

“Clearly, no one is above the law,” Turner said on CNN’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 oversight powers. It has to comply.”

Mr. Turner said he was not convinced “whether or not this is actually classified material and whether or not it rises to the level of the highest classified material,” despite the documents released by the court.

“I would be very surprised if I had actual documents that rise to the level of an immediate threat to national security,” Turner said.

Two of the laws referred to in the search warrant, however, make it a crime to take or conceal government records, regardless of whether they are related to national security. The third, which prohibits the unauthorized retention of material containing restricted national security information, applies whether the material is classified or not.

The Republican leaders in the Senate and House, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, have also said that 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 favor,” he said. “Under my watch, that’s precisely 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 do not interfere. We’re not being briefed,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told ABC’s “This Week,” adding, “We’ll let Merrick Garland speak for himself and his department.”

But other Democrats immediately seized on the Republicans’ anti-law enforcement remarks.

“I thought back to the old days when the Republican Party used to be with law enforcement,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, 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.”

He noted that when he reviews classified documents he must do so in a secure room. “I can’t even wear my Fitbit,” she said.

Representative Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., and chairman of the Intelligence Committee, has called on the director of national intelligence to conduct an “immediate review and damage assessment” and provide classified information to Congress about the potential harm caused to national security. for the handling of the documents of Mr. trump

“The fact that they were in an unsafe place that’s guarded with nothing more than a padlock or whatever security they had in a hotel is deeply alarming,” he told “Face the Nation.”

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, asked his panel to look into the actions of Mr. Garland.

“Never before has a former president and potential political opponent of the sitting president been the subject of such a search,” 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.”

Senator Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, took a similar approach.

“I’m not one of those people who say that, 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 run for the Justice Department, now that they’ve done it, that they show that it wasn’t just a fishing expedition.”


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