An organization of FBI agents has issued a forceful statement sharply criticizing threats and calls for violence against agents and other law enforcement in the wake of the seizure of documents at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home Monday.
“Calls for violence against law enforcement are unacceptable, and should be condemned by all leaders,” said the statement issued Thursday by Brian O’Hare, president of the FBI Agents Association. The organization represents about 14,000 current and past special agents.
“This is not a partisan or political issue. It is a matter of public safety and basic decency,” the statement added.
“FBI Special Agents are dedicated members of the law enforcement community who put their lives on the line every day to protect the public from criminals and terrorists. Special Agents and their families should never be threatened with violence, including for doing their jobs,” the statement noted. “The threats made recently contribute to an atmosphere where some have, or will, accept violence against law enforcement as appropriate. It is not.”
Extremists erupted online, posting calls for a civil war and for Americans to “lock and load” after Trump and a number of Republican lawmakers used incendiary language to attack the FBI and the Department of Justice over the search of Trump’s Florida residence. The search warrant reportedly sought classified documents, including some that may have been related to nuclear weapons.
Trump has called what appears to be a lawful search a “raid,” a “siege,” “lawless” and “corrupt.” He has also baselessly claimed that FBI agents “planted” evidence in his home.
House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) insisted, without any evidence, on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday that those who searched Trump’s home were “rogue” agents. In fact, Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement later that day that he had “personally approved” the FBI’s decision to seek a search warrant for Trump’s home, so the agents were simply doing their job.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) tweeted Monday: “We must destroy the FBI.”
Monica Crowley, a former public affairs official in Trump’s Treasury Department, warned on Twitter: “This is it. This is the hill to die on.”
Joe Kent, a U.S. House candidate in Washington state who’s been endorsed by Trump, said on former White House strategist Steve Bannon’s podcast Tuesday: “We’re at war.”
Some websites have even discussed tactics for attacking the Capitol and talked of building gallows and trapping lawmakers in tunnels under the building, The New York Times reported.
The incendiary rhetoric has already apparently triggered serious violence.
Gunman Ricky Shiffer, armed with an AR-15 rifle and a nail gun, was killed Thursday in a shootout with police after he fired on an FBI office in Cincinnati, officials said. He had boasted of links to the violent right-wing Oath Keepers, supporters of Trump who were among those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, which also occurred in the wake of violent rhetoric.
“Republican politicians and media figures are playing with fire,” Rachel Kleinfeld, a political violence analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Time magazine.
“Acceptance of violence for political ends in America is approaching the levels seen in Northern Ireland at the height of their Troubles.… fanning the flames of violence through incendiary language is the worst possible thing they could be doing,” she warned.