National Security

FBI pushes back against attacks over Trump search amid worries about violence

Law enforcement is pushing back against largely Republican-led attacks on the FBI related to Monday’s search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate after an Ohio man sought to breach the entrance to the bureau’s Cincinnati field office days later. 

Ricky Shiffer, 42, was shot and killed by officers on Thursday following an hours-long standoff after Shiffer raised a weapon. 

Authorities have not released any details that would indicate Shiffer’s motivations, but the timing of the breach has contributed to growing worries that the rhetoric about the FBI could lead to violence. NBC News has reported that Shiffer posted on the Truth Social social media platform about people needing to be “ready for combat” after the FBI search of Trump’s estate. 

“The threats made recently contribute to an atmosphere where some have, or will, accept violence against law enforcement as appropriate. It is not,” Brian O’Hare, president of the FBI Agents Association, said in a statement shortly after Shiffer’s death. 

“This is not a partisan or political issue. It is a matter of public safety and basic decency. Calls for violence against law enforcement are unacceptable, and should be condemned by all leaders.” 

Leadership at the Justice Department forcefully pushed back against attacks on the bureau, with Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray issuing statements condemning such rhetoric just hours apart on Thursday. 

Wray made clear Thursday that he sees the attacks as undermining not just the bureau, but the role law enforcement plays in a democracy.  

“Unfounded attacks on the integrity of the FBI erode respect for the rule of law and are a grave disservice to the men and women who sacrifice so much to protect others. Violence and threats against law enforcement, including the FBI, are dangerous and should be deeply concerning to all Americans,” Wray said in a statement. 

Garland announced from Justice Department headquarters on Thursday that DOJ would be seeking to unseal the warrant allowing them to search Trump’s home. 

“Let me address recent unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents and prosecutors. I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” he said. “The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic public servants.” 

Trump has repeatedly referred to the FBI’s search as a raid and suggested multiple times, without evidence, that agents may have been “planting information.” 

GOP lawmakers struck a more muted tone at Friday’s event, seeking to draw a distinction between criticizing leadership of the FBI and rank-and-file agents.  

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), himself a former FBI agent, walked a careful line Friday, warning of the need to maintain trust in such institutions, but stressing that the bureau has its own role to play in that effort. 

“We have too much distrust in too many of our institutions that are at the fabric of our democracy and our country simply cannot survive a perpetuation of that distrust. We got to fix it across the board, it’s incumbent upon all of us to do that,” he said. 

“I’m a former agent. Obviously, we cannot do our job without the support of the public. That’s the core necessity,” he said. “But when we have a growing matter of distrust, we have to get to the bottom of it and fix it.” 

Some GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee suggested that lawmakers, as part of their oversight efforts, simply needed more information on the FBI’s decision, questioning the use of a warrant at all, but stopping short of suggesting such a move was baseless. 

“They will be releasing, apparently, the warrant and the inventory. But it will still leave many unanswered questions. That’s why our request remains that the director of the FBI and the attorney general disclose to this committee the imminent national security threat upon which they based their decision to order a raid upon the president’s home — again, underscoring that there were many other options available to them,” ranking member Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) told reporters during the press conference. 

While Turner repeatedly suggested there were other options available to the Justice Department, he did not mention reporting indicating that the Justice Department subpoenaed Trump earlier this year for documents he was keeping on his premises. That followed a January visit by law enforcement to retrieve several boxes of documents Trump had taken to Mar-a-Lago, a possible violation of the Presidential Records Act. 

But other members shifted their focus, pivoting from critiques of the FBI to more direct criticism of its leadership. 

“The rank-and-file members of the FBI and our Department of Justice, they are brave men and women who do their job every single day. I think they’re doing an incredible job. However, the seventh floor, the leadership of the FBI, and the Department of Justice, have been politicized in the eyes of most Americans. And I want to say that perception is reality,” Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), another House Intelligence Committee member. 

Still, many Republicans continued in lashing out strongly against the FBI, arguing it abused its power with the search.  

“The FBI raid of President Trump was a complete abuse and overreach of its authority,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), the House GOP Conference chair, said at the press conference on Friday where Fitzpatrick also spoke.

Truth Social posts that appear to be Shiffer’s refer to violence in the hours before he breached the FBI office in Cincinnati.

“People this is it. I hope a call to arms comes from someone better qualified, but if not, this is your call to arms from me. … We must not tolerate this one. They have been conditioning us to accept tyranny and think we can’t do anything for two years. This time we must respond with force,” one of the posts said.

Shiffer’s actions Thursday come after the Ohio man was spotted in the Capitol on Jan. 6 of last year, according to reporting from NBC News.

Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman and onetime adviser to the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack, made clear he saw GOP messaging as a motivating factor for Shiffer. 

“Ricky Walter Shiffer was radicalized. Weaponized,” Riggleman tweeted Thursday.  

“Addled by conspiracies and fantasies—much of that insanity pushed by GOP elected officials and far right media.” 

Tags Christopher Wray Cincinnati FBI office DOJ FBI Mar-a-Lago Merrick Garland Merrick Garland Mike Turner
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