With Trump in trouble, Republicans step up attacks on DoJ and FBI

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When Merrick Garland was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by Barack Obama, Republicans refused to grant him a hearing. Now that Garland is America’s top law enforcement official, the party seems ready to give him one after all — an impeachment hearing.

Capitol Hill Republicans are stepping up a gear in a full-scale assault on the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that would have been unthinkable before Donald Trump’s rise to power. The party that for half a century claimed the mantle of law and order has, critics say, become a cult of personality bent on discrediting and dismantling the institutions that hinder Trump.

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“I often think, what would Richard Nixon say?” observed Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “He was the original president of ‘law and order,’ with that slogan. What would he think now that the party is attacking the main institutions of law and order, at least at the federal level? The law and order party has become the paranoid party.

The trend, apparent for years, has become palpable since Republicans took tight control of the House of Representatives in January. Within a month, they had set up a panel, chaired by Trump loyalist Jim Jordan, to investigate “the militarization of the federal government” and examine what they allege was the politicization of the Justice Department and the FBI. against the conservatives.

Their frustrations intensified last month when Trump became the first former president to face federal criminal charges, for his alleged mishandling of classified documents. Far from convicting a potential violator within their own ranks, nearly every rival to Trump for the presidential nomination in 2024 has accused the FBI of political bias, with some even calling for its abolition and vowing to pardon him if elected.

Many Republicans then spoke of a ‘two-tier’ justice system when Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors on tax evasion and gun possession charges that will keep him out of harm’s way. prison. A former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee has alleged political interference in the investigation and accused Garland of not telling Congress the truth, a claim Garland denies.

Some Republicans, especially on the far right, are now demanding Garland’s removal, a punishment that no cabinet member has faced since 1876. Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the House, recently told the conservative Fox News network: “Someone lied here. If we find out Garland lied to Congress, we’ll launch an impeachment inquiry.

Meanwhile, FBI Director Christopher Wray discovers that his status as a Trump appointee offers no immunity from the Republican onslaught.

In May, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a prominent Trump ally, filed articles of impeachment against him, claiming that “the FBI intimidated, harassed and entrapped American citizens who were considered as enemies of the Biden regime” and that he “turned the FBI into the personal police force of Joe Biden and Merrick Garland” with “Soviet-style tactics.”

Last month, the House Oversight Committee was poised to scorn Wray until it agreed to let all of its members review a 2020 document containing corruption allegations against Biden — allegations that officials say Democrats, were scrutinized and rejected by the Justice Department during Trump’s presidency.

Wray is now set to testify at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, chaired by Jordan, on Wednesday, with topics likely to include Trump’s indictment, Hunter’s plea deal and criticism of the special counsel John Durham on the FBI’s Russia investigation.

Greene also introduced articles of impeachment against Biden and other cabinet members and indicated she intended to force floor votes on her resolutions. It would undoubtedly create a spectacle for conservative television outlets and satisfy a grassroots “Make America great again” (Maga) desire to avenge Trump after years of hearings he was accused of.

However, any impeachment would be dead when it arrives in the Democratic-controlled Senate and could backfire on the electorate as a whole, with many voters sensing a desperate attempt to distract from policy debates.

Sabato commented, “It would excite their activists, but most Americans would be pushed back and shake their heads and say, these people need to get their house in order, so we’ll consider voting for them.” I’m sure Biden, in a way, hopes he’ll be impeached, and so are the others.

“It’s a waste of time: there’s no chance of a conviction in the Senate. They just shove the knife into their own chest. They commit suicide. It’s okay, go ahead, have a good time!

A woman celebrates the indictment of Donald Trump at the White House last month.

A woman celebrates the indictment of Donald Trump at the White House last month. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Kyle Herrig, executive director of the Congressional Integrity Project watchdog, agreed. He said: “Maga’s party is following the leader, Donald Trump, who is currently in serious legal trouble across the country. The party seems willing to try to sidestep these legal issues by interfering with its congressional investigations. What they do is play 30% of their base without realizing that you need another 20% to win the election.

Some establishment Republicans are aware of these dangers and are reluctant to drop the party’s law and order credentials, not least because they see crime as a major talking point in next year’s election. It’s a particularly awkward question for 18 Republican members of the House of Districts Biden won in 2020, all of whom have good reason to avoid voting with extremists such as Greene. The internal struggle threatens a political headache for McCarthy.

Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, said: “There are certainly people in the Republican Party and in Congress who would like to proceed with the removal of the head of the Justice Department. , Garland, sue the FBI chief and even sue Joe Biden.

“But there are cooler heads who appreciate that the paranoia-infected Trump kind of contagion is wrong and could be a real setback for the 2024 election.

“Independent voters, who tend to swing the US elections that have come so close, don’t buy the Trump line. You don’t see support for this lopsided view that the Justice Department and the FBI are somehow corrupt. There is no support for that except on the fringe of the Republican Party. The question, however, is does the fringe of the Republican Party carry enough weight, especially in the House of Representatives? , to force impeachment votes and other measures?

Acrimony threatens to dominate the rest of the year in an already unproductive Congress. Republicans could target law enforcement budgets and have already withheld more funds for a new FBI headquarters.

Their stance represents a stunning reversal for a party with a long tradition of being pro-police and tough on crime, from Nixon’s talk of cities “shrouded in smoke and flame” to Ronald Reagan’s embrace of mass incarceration. . It has its roots in years of Trump’s political attacks on a so-called “deep state” that seeks to get him – and, by extension, his supporters.

His rancor with the FBI began in earnest when the bureau examined alleged links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia while deciding not to prosecute his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, for using a private email server when she was secretary of state. Then FBI Director James Comey chastised Clinton, calling her handling of classified information negligent, but said there was no clear evidence that she or her aides intentionally broke any laws.

Trump’s relentless campaigning via campaign rallies and social media has had an effect: A Reuters/Ipsos poll in February 2018 found that three in four Republicans believed the FBI and Justice Department were actively seeking to undermine Trump through the politically motivated survey bias.

The seeding of distrust reached its full swing with a baseless conspiracy theory that the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the United States Capitol was a bureau-orchestrated hoax. Seen through this prism, every FBI investigation of those involved and every lawsuit against them is a violation, not an assertion, of law enforcement.

Kurt Bardelawho was Republican spokesman and senior adviser on the House Oversight Committee from 2009 to 2013, said: ‘It’s really something to watch the political party that spent the midterms of 2022 screaming to be pro-law enforcement and anti-defund the police when now they are using all their resources and their very slim majority in the House to do just that: tear down law enforcement and defund the police.

Bardella, now a Democratic strategist, added, “It seems Republicans like the idea of ​​law enforcement except when it comes to white-collar crimes and when it comes to their own people. . It’s interesting that they want two sets of justice systems: one that looks the other way and condones the multitude of crimes their leader, Donald Trump, has been accused of, and another justice system for just about everyone.

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