GOP displays split in tone on FBI’s Trump search

Republicans are starting to showcase different tones when it comes to the FBI’s search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday.

The differences were on display Friday during a press conference by House Intelligence Committee Republicans.

Ranking member Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a former FBI agent, raised concerns with the FBI’s tactics and asked for answers from the Department of Justice about the rationale for conducting the search, saying that oversight is necessary to ensure that the agency wasn’t politicized.

“Because many other options were available to them, we are very concerned about the method that was used in raiding Mar-a-Lago and the nine hours that transpired while they were in the president’s home,” Turner said.

Fitzpatrick said that the committee needs to look at “parity” in the enforcement of the law.

“We’ve seen many cases involving national security information – Sandy Berger, Hillary Clinton and the like. The public needs to know that the law is being enforced equally when the circumstances dictate,” Fitzpatrick said. He added that he is concerned about “perpetual distrust across a lot of these institutions,” which hinders the FBI from being able to do its job.

Others took a much more confrontational tone.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), chair of the House GOP Conference, said that Republicans will investigate President “Joe Biden and his administration’s weaponization of the Department of Justice and FBI against Joe Biden’s political opponent,” calling it “brazen politicization” and adding that Trump is Biden’s “most likeliest political opponent in 2024.”

“President Trump has been targeted from day one of his presidency by the FBI,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), who is running for Senate. “[Attorney General Merrick] Garland goes out and says that no one is above the law. I agree with that statement. No one is. That includes you, Attorney General Garland. That includes you, [FBI] Director [Christopher] Wray.”

Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.) said that while he sees the rank-and-file FBI and DOJ employees as doing an “incredible job,” top FBI and DOJ leadership have been politicized.

While GOP trust in the FBI plummeted along with Trump’s rise to power and his claims of a “witch hunt” against him, hostility toward the agency reached a new intensity in wake of the search warrant being executed at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home on Monday. Some Republicans, such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), have called to defund or dismantle the FBI.

Asked about those calls, Turner said: “We support our men and women in uniform. Anyone who’s made outrageous statements like that, we suggest you question them and not us.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was not at the press conference.

At his own press conference with reporters, he did not answer a question about if he has talked to members about their attacks on the agency. “I support law enforcement,” he said.

An armed man who attempted to breach an FBI building in Cincinnati on Thursday punctuated risks from mass public distrust in the institution. GOP members condemned the attack and threats against law enforcement officers.

The extreme responses directed at the FBI spurred condemnation from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

“You would think there would be an adult in the Republican room that would say, ‘Just calm down. See what the facts are, and let’s go for that.’ Instead of … instigating assaults on law enforcement,” Pelosi said at a press conference on Friday.

McCarthy also cast doubt about whether the classified information that the FBI was after in Mar-a-Lago rises to the level of needing a raid to retrieve.

“It seems very hard for me to think whatever information the president had sitting in the Oval Office or something else is the high level of what people are talking about,” McCarthy said.

Turner said he is glad that Garland began the process of releasing information about the warrant used to search Mar-a-Lago, but said that even with the release of the information, there will be many unanswered questions that could only be answered by additional disclosure of affidavits and other documents.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are asking the DOJ to give the committee, but not necessarily the public, information regarding the affidavit used to justify the search. The DOJ has not moved to release that document.

Turner cautioned reporters about accepting reports that the classified information the FBI sought to retrieve concerned nuclear capabilities, and expressed skepticism that even if true, that would justify a search warrant rather than going to the courts to enforce a subpoena or other actions. 

“It would be very, very narrow of anything that just has the umbrella of nuclear weapons in it that would rise to the level of an immediate national security threat,” Turner said. “It would be highly unusual for the president to have anything even in the Oval Office that rises to the level of an imminent national security threat.”

Tags Brian Fitzpatrick Brian Fitzpatrick Department of Justice Donald Trump Elise Stefanik Elise Stefanik FBI Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Markwayne Mullin Markwayne Mullin Mike Turner Mike Turner Trent Kelly Trent Kelly
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