Just before 9 p.m. Monday, hours after it was announced that FBI agents had searched former President Donald Trump's residence at Mar-a-Lago for documents illegally brought from the White House, close Trump ally Paul Gosar had something to say.
In five lines of text, Gosar, R-Ariz., invalidated a federal investigation, professed his continued alliance with Trump and called for the destruction of the FBI.
It's a stark turn from conventional party rhetoric. Trump liked to bill himself as a “law and order” president; his supporters say they “back the blue.” Gosar's official Twitter account contains more than 50 deferential references to local and federal law enforcement.
But he's long agitated against the FBI, in 2020 falsely tweeting that former President Barack Obama used the agency to spy on then-candidate Trump, poking out unsubstantiated links between FBI officials and Democratic officeholders.
Now, he's advocating for abolition.
“Um…what? This tweet is disturbing,” said Twitter user Kyle Cowan, an author and law school student.
“Okay. Be disturbed,” Gosar replied. “We're going to dismantle and eliminate the FBI.”
The FBI's Monday search had no partisan links. The Department of Justice was acting on behalf of claims made by the National Archives that Trump brought 15 boxes of documents containing classified information with him to Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House in January 2021.
To execute the search warrants, Justice Department officials needed approval from a federal judge, along with overwhelming evidence indicating a crime had likely been committed.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, who signed off on the search, was himself appointed by Trump in 2017 after the former President fired James Comey.
Gosar's tweet was an inflammatory tactic that was parroted by Gosar's ideological allies in the House, America First Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. They are calling for radical measures to disarm and defund critical federal administrative agencies.
For years, angling toward the abolition and defunding of law enforcement has been seen as a key, if politically poisonous, policy pillar of leftists within the Democratic Party.
Most Republicans have shied away from taking such public and radical stances opposing the FBI. But they're still finding their own ways to show support for Trump, chiefly by accusing the agency of collusion with Democrats.
FBI, Department of Justice under fire
While stopping far short of calling for the abolition of the FBI, other Republicans in Arizona's congressional delegation are criticizing the agency for what they see as a politically motivated raid.
U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, who reportedly requested a pardon from Trump for his role in the failed Jan. 6 insurrection, said on Twitter that the search was caused by “rogue individuals” that were “violating their oath of office by not upholding the law.”
“This gets at the heart of what I was saying over the weekend, that FBI and DOJ needs to be looked at very carefully because they have weaponized those police agencies against Americans who they disagree with politically,” Biggs told news anchor Rob Schmitt on NewsMax Monday evening.
His sentiments were echoed by U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko, who on Twitter indicated that Republicans would investigate “any Department of Justice abuses” if they retake control of the House after the 2022 midterm elections.
“President Trump said his Mar-a-Lago home was raided by the FBI, the same FBI that has ignored evidence on Hunter Biden’s laptop and has not gone after Hillary Clinton for deleting over 30,000 emails,” Lesko said.
David Schweikert, the fourth Republican representing Arizona in the House, has not yet publicly commented on the FBI search.
Schweikert has historically refrained from touching on politically controversial issues relating to Trump, who in June endorsed Schweikert for reelection.
Focus shifts from Dems to search
Word of the FBI search comes at a challenging political moment for Democrats, who are in the middle of publicly celebrating a number of key victories for President Joe Biden and party leadership.
On Tuesday, Biden signed into law the CHIPS Act, which will provide $52 billion in subsidies to stimulate the country's semiconductor industry. And over the weekend, Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act, the country's largest-ever investment in clean energy, which is projected to bring down greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by the end of the decade.
Instead of promoting their policy wins, Democrats are contending with a national news cycle that has been dominated by Trump's announcement of the raid. The former president and his Republican allies are attempting to use the search to galvanize and unify the party.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has made the GOP's pitch clear: “Attorney General Garland: preserve your documents and clear your calendar,” he said on his Twitter account yesterday.
On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., indicated the search would increase the likelihood of Trump running for reelection. Aides are speculating the former president may now move up his announcement of a run, according to Politico.
Democrats are taking a measured approach, weary that Republicans will link the independent actions of the Justice Department to a partisan political agenda.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre worked to distance the Biden administration from the FBI search, making it clear Biden was not made aware that FBI agents were at Mar-a-Lago until it was publicly reported.
But some Democrats, like U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., are fighting back with messaging of their own. Gallego on Twitter Tuesday challenged Trump to reveal the contents of the warrant served at Mar-a-Lago. The public, then, could come up with its own conclusion.
“Donald Trump has a copy of the warrant,” Gallego tweeted. “If he feels so attacked he should share it with the world.”
But former presidential candidate Andrew Yang captured the anxieties of some political strategists.
“I’m no Trump fan,” he tweeted this morning. “I want him as far away from the White House as possible. But a fundamental part of his appeal has been that it’s him against a corrupt government establishment. This raid strengthens that case for millions of Americans who will see this as unjust persecution.”
Gregory Svirnovskiy is a Pulliam Fellow at the Arizona Republic. You can follow him on Twitter @gsvirnovskiy or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Gosar, GOP allies call for abolishing the FBI after Mar-a-Lago search