GOP lawmakers adopt ‘defund’ rallying cry for FBI, not police

The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other Black Americans by police officers in recent years have sparked protests around the country. Many activists demanded cities defund their police, an idea scorned by Republicans. 

Now, though, some GOP leaders have adopted the rallying cry when it comes to the FBI and former President Trump.

After the FBI conducted a search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence on Monday, Republicans reacted in outrage, with a handful calling for the FBI to be defunded or abolished.

South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan (R) wrote on Twitter, “The FBI has proven time and again that it is corrupt to the core. At what point do we abolish the Bureau and start over?” 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) tweeted “DEFUND THE FBI!” and is now selling apparel bearing the same slogan. 

It’s quite a turnaround for any Republican to talk about defunding a national law enforcement group, given that the GOP has used calls from progressives to “defund the police” as a political attack line.

In fact, those GOP arguments were so politically potent that most Democrats have abstained from the “defund the police” slogan even when they are deeply in favor of police reform. President Biden has made it clear he does not want to defund the police.

Most Republicans attacking the FBI over its search of Trump’s estate also were not calling for the FBI to be defunded, even as they did question its actions.

Those that did use the phrase, however, showed few signs of walking it back, even after a search warrant was released publicly on Friday and showed authorities are looking into whether the Espionage Act was evaded through classified materials being brought to Mar-a-Lago.

Greene’s office said she was not available for an interview with The Hill. But she has been active on social media, accusing Biden of “weaponizing” the FBI and the Department of Justice in a Telegram post.

In an interview on former Trump strategist Steve Bannon’s podcast, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) compared the FBI officers to East German Stasi officers. 

“The antidote has to be not one more damn penny for this administrative state that has been weaponized against our people in a very fascist way,” said Gaetz. 

However, in a statement to The Hill, Gaetz said his comments “do not call for defunding the FBI” but for “reformation of the worst elements of the administrative state. Congress should use the power of the purse to achieve that goal.”

He added, “Taxpayer money shouldn’t fund any agency that targets its political opponents.” 

It’s quite a shift from the GOP rhetoric about state and local police in the context of their policing of minority communities in particular.

Republicans have criticized Democratic lawmakers for encouraging the notion of “defunding” and even “abolishing” police forces. 

Some Republicans have claimed Democrats’ approval of the idea has led to a recent uptick in crime across the country — despite the fact that Biden has pushed back at the defunding language. 

“Crime is exploding in Democrat-run cities … this is 100% the result of their left-wing policies of defunding the police, backing BLM / ANTIFA, destroying families, and coddling of criminals!” Greene tweeted in June 2021.

In a 2020 Twitter thread, Duncan said that while he supports the right for people to “peacefully protest about policing concerns,” most law enforcement officers are “great public servants” who “care deeply about protecting individual rights.”

“It’s a sad and scary day in America when we have citizens calling to defund and dismantle the police,” Duncan’s thread said. “This dangerous call to action would NOT make our communities safer. It would only weaken law & order and cause far more chaos than we’ve already seen.”

Duncan’s office did not respond to request for comment.

Advocates for defunding the police have said the idea is to provide different, more humanitarian resources for overpoliced communities, and that Republicans have twisted the meaning behind the phrase. 

Alicia Garza, principal of Black to the Future Action Fund and a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter organization, said the Republican lawmakers’ “hypocrisy” over the phrase is nothing more than “political theater.”

“They’re playing this role where they’re going to try and stir up as much false outrage as possible,” she said. “People use these kinds of moments not only to create wedges between communities but to distract people from what’s really at stake and, frankly, to distract people from the fact that they don’t have real solutions to some of the challenges that we’re facing.”

She added that the demands to defund police are “fundamentally trying to bring humanity back to communities who have been dehumanized” and these politicians “don’t deserve to stand on that same platform.”

“Hospitals are closing in our communities, and grocery stores and quality schools — all the things that make communities thrive,” said Garza. “Black people are saying, we need our communities refunded. Our communities have been stripped of all of the services and safety net protections that we have fought hard for … What I hear Black communities saying through our year-long Black Census Project is not necessarily that they want to defund police. What I hear is we want police to be held accountable when they commit crimes in our communities.” 

But Garza said she’s not holding her breath for those conversations to take place.

“These are the real kinds of policy discussions that we should be having,” said Garza. “Unfortunately, because this is mostly theater, we’re not going to have those conversations.”

Tags Biden Black Lives Matter DOJ FBI Jeff Duncan Jeff Duncan Joe Biden Marjorie Taylor Greene Marjorie Taylor Greene Matt Gaetz Trump
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