by JoAnn Campbell, Sept. 25, 2022
After former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida was raided on August 8 by roughly 30 FBI agents, Republicans are slamming the Biden administration and accusing the Department of Justice of “political weaponization,”while Democrats are lauding the agency for holding Trump accountable for “wrongdoing.”
The unprecedented raid marked the latest remarkable turn in the long-running investigations into Trump’s actions before, during and after his presidency–and even as he weighs announcing another candidacy for the White House.
The search warrant came two weeks after Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, head of the DOJ and FBI Director Christopher Wray, notifying them of FBI whistleblower allegations of a coordinated effort to cover up the alleged criminal activity of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
“The FBI and the justice department have become vicious monsters, controlled by radical-left scoundrels, lawyers and the media, who tell them what to do,” said Trump.
FBI director Christopher Wray, who was nominated by the former president in 2017, dismissed attacks on the FBI’s integrity and defended the bureau in the wake of the raid on the residence of the former President.
The search has spawned accusations by Trump’s close allies of politicized law enforcement. Furious Trump supporters are demanding an explanation for the raid. The condemnation from conservative circles was immediate and a growing number of Republicans have lashed out against the FBI and Justice Department, with some even issuing calls to “defund the FBI”. They have depicted the investigation as politically motivated, with leading figures demanding a briefing from Attorney General Merrick Garland. They believe that the FBI has been enforcing the law in politically sensitive cases in a partisan manner to the detriment of Republicans. Their suspicions are not unwarranted.
Trump’s former Vice-President, Mike Pence, who has subtly distanced himself amid speculation they may both launch 2024 White House runs, called on the attorney general to give “a full accounting” of why the search warrant was carried out.
“No former President of the United States has ever been subject to a raid of their personal residence in American history,” Pence wrote on his Twitter.
Mike Pompeo, ex-CIA Director and former Secretary of State in the Trump administration, denounced the Justice Department’s handling of the raid while also hinting at criticism toward the former president for taking documents after he left the White House.
“The apparent political weaponization of DOJ/FBI is shameful,” Pompeo tweeted, “but for the Department of Justice to behave the way they did by raiding the home of a former president is absolutely outrageous,” he added. “And it is politicizing a Department of Justice that I fear is headed in a way that is not consistent with the understandings that we all have of the rule of law here in the United States.”
However, the former secretary of state acknowledged that materials should not have been taken from the White House, noting that “no one gets to keep classified information outside of a place classified information should be. That is certainly true.”
Bill Barr, who served as attorney general for almost two years under Trump, on the other hand, offered perhaps the most scathing public criticism a prominent Republican has given about former President Donald Trump’s decision to bring a trove of government documents to Mar-A-Lago after the end of his term, suggesting federal authorities were left with little choice but to raid the property after Trump “jerked around” investigators.
Barr dismissed GOP criticism of the raid of a former president’s home as “unprecedented,” saying “it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put them in a country club.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s close allies in Congress, vowed to launch an investigation if they win back control of the Capitol Hill in November, when the balance of power in Washington will be decided. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. promised vigorous oversight hearings and suggested that he intended to investigate Attorney General Merrick B. Garland should Republicans take control of the House of Representatives following the upcoming mid-term elections.
“The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization,” McCarthy tweeted, “When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned.”
McCarthy was far from alone. Other Republicans, including potential 2024 presidential candidates, continued to attack the Justice Department and the FBI.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the leading non-Trump candidate in the 2024 GOP primary race, and the state’s two senators are warning of the “weaponization” of the U.S. Department of Justice after the FBI raided Trump’s Palm Beach Home.
DeSantis issued a statement from his campaign Twitter account, saying, “The raid of MAL is another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents, while people like Hunter Biden get treated with kid gloves. Now the Regime is getting another 87k IRS agents to wield against its adversaries? Banana Republic.”
In response to DeSantis’ statement, Florida Agriculture Secretary Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for governor, said, “Your tweet is another escalation of your pathetic loyalty to an insurrectionist over country and the rule of law.”
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the FBI’s raid was “incredibly concerning, especially given the Biden admin’s history of going after parents and other political opponents. This is Third World country stuff. We need answers …”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., published a video message online, warning that the FBI’s tactics were like those of a third-world dictatorship.
“We’ve had divisive politics and anger in our politics for as long as this country’s existed,” Rubio said. “… But the one thing we’ve never had is we’ve never been a country where people who take power, like becoming president, now use that power to persecute their past or political opponents. We’ve never seen that until … the Justice Department under Joe Biden decided to raid … the home of the former president who might … be running against him …”
A Twitter account for Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee run by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, tweeted: “This is what happens in third world countries. Not the United States.” Another tweet read: “If they can do it to a former President, imagine what they can do to you.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., labeled the raid, “outrageous and unjust, but predictable.”
Sen. Ted Cruz. R-Texas, said, “What Nixon tried to do, Biden has now implemented: The Biden admin has fully weaponized DOJ & FBI to target their political enemies.”
Steve Bannon labeled the FBI a “gestapo.” And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., took it a step further, tweeting: “DEFUND THE FBI!”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a series of tweets that “launching such an investigation of a former President this close to an election is beyond problematic.” Graham predicted there will be “riots in the streets” if Trump were to get prosecuted.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell released a statement saying the justice department “should already have provided answers to the American people and must do so immediately”.
New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking House Republican, called for “an immediate investigation and accountability into Joe Biden and his Administration’s weaponizing this [Justice] department against their political opponents.”
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem blasted Biden’s FBI, calling the agency’s actions “un-American” in a statement.
“This illegitimate, corrupt Regime hates America and has weaponized the entirety of the Federal Government to take down President Donald Trump,” said Kari Lake, the Trump-backed Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee.
Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also released a statement asserting that the search was an attempt by Democrats to “weaponize the bureaucracy against Republicans.”
Several Republican senators used the operation to further criticize President Joe Biden’s sweeping climate, health care and tax bill, which Senate Democrats passed recently and which includes nearly $80 billion in funding for the Internal Revenue Service. Sen. Rubio, for instance, tweeted: “After today’s raid on Mar A Lago what do you think the left plans to use those 87,000 new IRS agents for?”
GOP Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana mentioned the $739 billion Manchin-Schumer bill that just passed the senate, which expanded the IRS, in his rebuke of the FBI’s action.
“If the FBI can raid the home of a former US President, imagine what 87,000 more IRS agents will do to you,” Banks quipped on Twitter.
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott echoed Banks’ sentiment on Mark Levin’s radio show.
“Biden is dividing our country and the DOJ seems to be reinforcing that division through their actions… that is very dangerous to the everyday person walking on the streets of America,” said Scott.
While Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Chris Wray have acknowledged approving the filing of the search warrant application which was approved by a federal magistrate judge. President Biden, in contrast, has denied having any advanced notice of the raid. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre claimed that President Biden was given no advance notice by the FBI of the raid, and that he “learned about this from public reports”.
“The president was not briefed and was not aware of it. No-one at the White House was given a heads-up,” she said.
Aides to President Biden also said they were stunned by the development and learned of it from Twitter.
While many Democrats welcomed the raid, several urged the DoJ to provide more information. Some aired concerns that it could boost support for the former president.
Several Democrats who supported the raid of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate previously criticized him for allegedly trying to “weaponize” the Justice Department on a number of different issues.
In a September 2019 tweet, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accused Trump of trying to “weaponize” the Justice Department after it began investigating automakers who had reached a deal with California regarding fuel efficiency standards. In a statement on the matter, Pelosi said Trump’s weaponization of the DOJ was a part of the “Trump Administration’s toxic special interest agenda.”
Despite the Trump-era accusations made by the House Democrats, the party, overall, is now silent or lauding the Justice Department after the Mar-a-Lago raid.
Pelosi said she first learned of the “visit” by FBI agents through public reports on her phone. She believed the FBI must have “justification” for the raid.
“To have a warrant, you need justification,” said Pelosi. “And that says that no-one is above the law, not even a president or former president of the United States.”
However, “Squad” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said the FBI is working toward “accountability” and went as far as to say Trump should be in prison.
“That’s what happens when you break the law, try to steal an election, and incite a deadly insurrection. Donald Trump should be in jail. I’m glad to see the FBI taking steps towards accountability.”
Others were quick to note that the FBI never searched the Chappaqua, New York home that Hillary Clinton shared with another former president, even after it had been revealed that she had installed a server in that home that she used to receive classified information from her time as secretary of state. Clinton’s aides destroyed her mobile devices with a hammer, and her attorney deleted approximately 33,000 emails which she claimed were all personal. Clinton, of course, was never charged with a crime.
The question of how the former president handled classified material is complicated because as president he had the authority to declassify any government information. It is unclear whether Trump, before leaving office, had declassified materials the archives discovered in the boxes. Under federal law, he no longer maintains the ability to declassify documents after leaving office. The Mar-a-lago search, however, does not mean prosecutors have determined that Trump committed a crime.