Just hours after the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump not only presented himself as a victim, he expected other Republicans to follow his lead. As quickly became obvious, much — though not all — of the GOP toed the former president’s line, denouncing federal law enforcement.
Whether Republicans were aware of this or not, their rhetoric was being monitored by Team Trump: Politico reported that members of the former president’s political operation were “keeping tabs of Republicans who aren’t, in their view, sufficiently rushing to his defense.”
Evidently, the former president wasn’t the only one concerned with GOP officials who exercised restraint. Politico also reported yesterday:
Following the FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called out some of his Republican colleagues who are taking the quieter “wait and see” approach. The GOP leader took to Facebook Monday, blasting a message of urgency to his colleagues that “NOW is the time to speak up and be LOUD.”
Specifically, the top House Republican’s message was just two sentences long: “If you are an elected Republican, and you are staying quiet while Democrats in Washington are abusing their power — you are the very reason they think they can get away with it. NOW is the time to speak up and be LOUD!”
There are a whole lot of problems packed into these 42 words. To hear McCarthy tell it, for example, Democrats not only control federal law enforcement — a dubious proposition in its own right given the role of career employees and a Trump-appointed FBI director — they’re also “abusing their power.” The minority leader’s evidence of this is, well, non-existent.
But it’s the second sentence that obviously matters more.
Traditionally, party leaders on Capitol Hill have worried about whether their members might do something irresponsible. McCarthy is worried House Republicans aren’t irresponsible enough.
As things currently stand, GOP members don’t know what classified materials Trump took. They don’t know what was on the search warrant. They don’t know what FBI agents took from Mar-a-Lago. They don’t even know why Trump World has no interest in voluntarily disclosing the search warrant to the public.
This is important and highly relevant information, which elected legislators in the world’s preeminent superpower might want to consider before launching an offensive against their own country’s law enforcement.
And yet, there was McCarthy, effectively telling his members they don’t need answers, they need to attack. It’s not important to know what you’re talking about, it’s important to stick to the partisan script. Don’t worry about facts; worry about Trump.
As for why the would-be Speaker of the House would take such a ridiculous position, there are a handful of possibilities.
It’s possible, for example, that McCarthy is reflecting the wishes of his members, who may be quietly pressing him to keep the party united and on-message. It’s also possible that Trump lobbied the minority leader on this, and McCarthy is following the former president’s instructions.
But let’s not discount the possibility that Republican leaders are feeling a little antsy about the midterm elections. GOP-appointed justices on the Supreme Court have already helped light a fire under the Democratic base, and the Republican strategy of focusing on gas prices is starting to falter. What McCarthy & Co. are looking for is something new that will get their party’s base motivated, agitated, reaching for their wallets, and ready to turn out in droves.
As of this week, that shiny new toy is a baseless attack against the Justice Department and the FBI.