Even before the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, the public would occasionally hear some Republican officials talk about cutting off funds to federal law enforcement. At an event last year, for example, Republican Rep. Andy Biggs, the former chair of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, talked up possible priorities if the GOP took control of the House.
“There are things you can do,” the Arizonan said, reflecting on Congress’ power. “You start defunding some of these bad agencies. The FBI. The DOJ.”
After the search at Donald Trump’s glorified country club, however, similar talk became much louder. Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, for example, became a leading proponent of “defunding” the FBI.
On Friday, Rep. Matt Gaetz capped off a difficult week with an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where attendees heard the Florida Republican join the defunding brigade. USA Today reported:
“I don’t care if it takes every second of our time and every ounce of our energy,” he said. “We either get this government back on our side or we defund and get rid of, abolish the FBI, the CDC, ATF, DOJ, every last one of them if they do not come to heel.” The CDC is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The audience, made up of far-right activists, loudly applauded Gaetz’s condemnation, nearly drowning him out.
He did not elaborate on how, exactly, federal agencies should “come to heel,” or to whose heel officials should come, but the GOP congressman is apparently ready to “defund,” “get rid of” or “abolish” the departments anyway.
In the not-too-distant past, Republicans were hysterical about the idea that Democrats might try to “defund the police.” It’s against that backdrop that a growing number of GOP voices feel quite comfortable talking about defunding the FBI.
It’s worth noting for context that Republican leaders recently appointed Gaetz to the party’s “weaponization” panel, putting him in a position to help target federal agencies and determine whether or not they’re on the GOP’s “side.”
Rep. Jim Jordan didn’t go quite that far during a Sunday appearance on Fox News, but the Ohio Republican — who chairs both the House Judiciary Committee and the select “weaponization” panel — did say GOP lawmakers intend to use the “weaponization” panel to investigate assorted partisan conspiracy theories related to the FBI.
I continue to believe there’s a degree of irony to these circumstances: As we’ve discussed, the FBI has earned a reputation as one of the single most conservative institutions in the federal government.
Indeed, it was just last week when The Washington Post published a fascinating behind-the-scenes report on the disagreements within federal law enforcement ahead of the search at Mar-a-Lago, including details about how FBI officials wanted to give Trump special treatment, and even pushed the idea that the bureau should get the former president’s permission before executing a court-approved search warrant.
The Post’s article added that some FBI field agents tried to “slow” the investigation, with some calling for the investigation to simply end altogether in early June, taking Team Trump’s lies about cooperation at face value.
Gaetz is desperate to get “this government” back on conservatives’ “side.” Isn’t much of the FBI already there?