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Republican leader takes anti-FBI arguments in a weird direction

Republicans had already spent the week condemning the FBI, even calling for "defunding" it. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise made matters a little worse.


One of the uglier aspects of the Republican response to the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search warrant has been the pushback against federal law enforcement that didn’t do anything wrong. Too much of the right has not only spent days questioning the integrity of the Justice Department, a surprising number of Republicans have gone so far as to suggest FBI agents might’ve “planted” incriminating evidence.

Or put another way, in response to a court-approved search warrant, some GOP officials, with no evidence whatsoever, thought it’d be a good idea to accuse FBI agents of possible crimes.

Some Republican lawmakers have even endorsed "defunding" the FBI.

Yesterday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise — a Louisiana Republican who may soon become the House majority leader if voters put the GOP in charge of the chamber — decided to make matters just a bit worse.

The congressman appeared on Fox News, and the host reminded Scalise that federal law enforcement officials are facing increased death threats as Republicans “demonize” the FBI. As The Washington Post reported, the response was far from ideal.

Scalise’s response was probably unsatisfying for any officers who might have been watching. “Frankly, we’re very strong supporters of law enforcement,” he said, “and it concerns everybody if you see some agents go rogue and if you see an agency that doesn’t have the right checks and balances at the top. This is coming from the top.”

Fox News’ Steve Doocy, who isn’t exactly known for being tough on Republican guests, was apparently surprised by the rhetoric. “Steve, who went rogue?” the co-host asked Scalise. “They were following a search warrant!”

The House GOP leader could’ve taken that opportunity to walk back his rhetoric. He didn’t.

“We want to find that out,” Scalise replied. “We want to find that out.” He then directed additional criticisms at Attorney General Merrick Garland.

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, there’s literally nothing to suggest that any FBI agents went “rogue” as part of the execution of a court-approved search warrant. In fact, Scalise didn’t even try to present this in a credible way: The congressman didn’t say he had evidence of agents going rogue; he suggested agents might’ve gone rogue, so his party intends to look into the matter.

It’s as integrity-free an allegation against federal law enforcement as an elected official can make.

Rep. Liz Cheney, who used to serve alongside Scalise in the House GOP leadership, called out her party yesterday for this kind of rhetoric.

“I have been ashamed to hear members of my party attacking the integrity of the FBI agents involved with the recent Mar-a-Lago search,” the Wyoming congresswoman wrote via Twitter. “These are sickening comments that put the lives of patriotic public servants at risk.”

Whether Scalise got the message or not is unclear.