One of the year’s most unexpected political developments is Republicans going on the offensive against the FBI. Donald Trump has been especially aggressive in targeting federal law enforcement in the wake of the Mar-a-Lago search — the former president has described the FBI as a “real threat to democracy” — but on Capitol Hill, quite a few Republicans have followed suit.
As we discussed the other day, more than a few GOP lawmakers have been unsubtle in their criticisms of the FBI, falsely accusing the bureau of being politicized, peddling odd conspiracy theories and, in some instances, even calling for the agency to be defunded by Congress. One senator went so far as to argue that there’s a nefarious “cabal” within the FBI that’s up to no good.
But let’s not overlook the Republican candidates who read from a similarly partisan script. NBC News reported on the U.S. Senate campaign in Nevada, where, ironically, Republican Adam Laxalt has accused Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of not showing enough support for law enforcement.
[A]fter the event, Laxalt, a Republican who was once Nevada’s top law enforcement official, refused to support the FBI. “The FBI is far too political right now, and we need to do something to take the polarization out of that,” Laxalt said in a response to a question from NBC News. “We just can’t afford to have our top law enforcement agency that politicized.”
This follows a tweet Laxalt published last month in which he accused unnamed people from “the Left” of “weaponizing” agencies such as the FBI. For proof, the Republican pointed to the court-approved search warrant of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property.
Evidently, as Laxalt sees it, if law enforcement is investigating possible crimes from someone the Nevada Republican likes, then there must be something wrong with law enforcement. It’s emblematic of a rather twisted vision in which the rule of law must succumb to partisan preferences.
Part of what makes rhetoric like Laxalt’s so problematic is the irony: He is, after all, Nevada’s former attorney general. Another part is the hypocrisy: If Laxalt is going to slam Cortez Masto for failing to support law enforcement, perhaps he should show greater caution before failing to show support for law enforcement.
But even if we put these relevant details aside, the most glaring flaw in the GOP candidate’s criticisms is the plain fact that Laxalt is just wrong: By any fair measure, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is, and has long been, one of the single most conservative institutions in the federal government.
If Laxalt genuinely believes that “the Left” has politicized the FBI, then the Nevadan has no idea what he’s talking about.
An NBC News report recently explained, “Those who have worked for and with the FBI still have trouble adjusting to the notion that millions of Trump supporters believe that the bureau, a generally conservative-leaning law enforcement organization, is some sort of left-wing bastion. A right-leaning former FBI official described the bureau as a ‘pretty conservative, right-leaning organization that tries to divorce itself of politics.’”
The same report quoted former U.S. attorney Joyce White Vance, an NBC News legal analyst, explaining that the portrayal of the FBI by Republicans and in conservative media is out of touch with reality.
“I’m sure the people who are the most appalled to learn today that they’re radical liberals are the leadership of the FBI,” Vance said. “The notion that the FBI isn’t, in essence, a conservative-leaning organization is really silly, and it shows you just how far the Trump people are willing to go to justify the unjustifiable.”
In a New York Times op-ed last month, Garrett Graff added, “Of all the weird and historically discordant moments and news stories of the Donald Trump era, few seem stranger than watching the former president and his allies demonize the F.B.I. as some sort of rogue ‘woke’ Democratic deep state mob.”
Graff added that the bureau — which has never had a Democratic director — has long been “arguably the most culturally conservative and traditionally white Christian institution in the entire U.S. government.”
If Laxalt wants to be taken seriously, he should complain about something else.