WASHINGTON — Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) suggested this week that he doesn’t really want to destroy the FBI, contrary to what he keeps saying on Twitter.
“Well, you know, you catch people’s attention that way,” Gosar said of his tweets in a brief interview with HuffPost on Wednesday.
In response to the FBI raid on former President Donald Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, last month, many Republicans criticized federal law enforcement, but none went as far as Gosar.
“We must destroy the FBI. We must save America,” he tweeted on Aug. 8, soon after Trump disclosed that the FBI had searched his property. “I stand with Donald J. Trump.”
Just three days later, an armed Trump supporter tried to breach an FBI building in Ohio, ultimately dying in a shootout with police.
Even some of Gosar’s fellow Republicans have suggested that language like Gosar’s went too far. On Aug. 12, Republicans on the House intelligence committee called a press conference to criticize the FBI, but Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), the committee’s top Republican, suggested that calls to defund or destroy the FBI were out of bounds.
“We support our men and women in uniform who are in law enforcement and we request that anybody who has made outrageous statements like that, that you question them and not us,” Turner said.
However, Turner and the other Republicans at that press conference spent very little time talking about the troubling incident at the FBI building in Ohio that had happened the day before. They devoted far more time to talking about the 2017 shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) at a congressional baseball practice and the Hillary Clinton email controversy.
By the time of the Mar-a-Lago raid, the National Archives had already said that Trump kept official documents that he was legally required to turn over to the Archives at the end of his term. And the Justice Department has since said in court that Trump may have obstructed investigators by moving material and intentionally misleading them about what remained.
But Gosar hasn’t let up. Last week, for instance, he tweeted a call to “Dismantle and Eliminate the FBI” in response to Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s unconfirmed claim that the FBI had raided the homes of dozens of Trump allies. (The New York Times reported this week that the Justice Department has sent out more than 40 subpoenas related to its investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.)
On Wednesday, when HuffPost asked what he meant about destroying or eliminating the FBI, Gosar said he just wants people to be “held accountable” and that he wants “new blood in the FBI,” as in new personnel. And he suggested that Congress would achieve the changes through its regular spending prerogatives.
“I think the power of the purse will show its way,” Gosar said.
When asked whether he was talking about “much less sweeping reform” than actually eliminating the FBI, Gosar said he was trying to “catch people’s attention” with the more bombastic rhetoric.
But Gosar and other Republicans could be playing with fire, as the FBI has said its agents have received an unprecedented wave of threats in the days following the Mar-a-Lago search. On Aug. 15, days after the Trump supporter in Ohio tried to storm an FBI building and was killed, the bureau arrested another Trump supporter for threatening to kill FBI agents.
Gosar said, essentially, that the FBI is asking for it.
“What’s the FBI doing showing up at everybody’s house as well?” he said, in an apparent reference to Bannon’s claim of mass raids. “Coming from the West, the West was won, you know, not by the FBI.”
HuffPost at this point suggested that Gosar’s meaning wasn’t entirely clear.
“It’s about the equal application of the law,” he said.