Federal law enforcement has had plenty of critics over the years, but Donald Trump’s vigorous and enthusiastic public smear campaign has no modern parallels.
In recent months, the former president has equated the FBI with “the Gestapo.” He’s told the public that the bureau is led by “Marxist Thugs.” He’s condemned the FBI as “corrupt” and “crooked.” He’s described FBI officials as “mobsters” and a “real threat to democracy.” He’s slammed the FBI as the “Fake Bureau of Investigation,” before accusing the bureau of secretly paying people to “steal” the 2020 election from him, as part of the FBI’s plot to “rig” the election and “illegally change” the results.
As recently as two months ago, Trump even endorsed congressional Republicans defunding federal law enforcement.
Yesterday, however, the Republican broke new rhetorical ground: By way of his social media platform, Trump condemned “fascists” in federal law enforcement:
“The Marxists and Fascists in the DOJ & FBI are going after me at a level and speed never seen before in our Country, and I did nothing wrong. Joe Biden kept (keeps) thousand of documents, in many locations, some illegally taken from skiffs while he was a Senator, a big portion of which were classified. He didn’t want to give them back, and still doesn’t.”
About 10 minutes later, the former president repeated the line, insisting that Democrats “are using the DOJ & FBI against me to Rigg the 2024 Election. ... Nothing about these Fascists is fair or honest.”
Right off the bat, I’d be remiss if I neglected to highlight some of his more amusing typos. Trump not only misspelled “rig” — a relatively easy word to spell — he also accused Biden of taking documents “from skiffs.”
A skiff, of course, is a small, flat-bottomed rowboat. A “SCIF,” on the other hand, is a sensitive compartmented information facility, where officials routinely receive classified information and review sensitive documents.
I should also take a moment to note that Trump’s specific allegations against Biden appear to have been made up out of whole cloth.
But of particular interest was seeing the former president twice argue that there are “fascists” in the FBI and the Justice Department.
I’m reminded of a story from 2009.
In the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, his opponents on the right found that incessant references to “socialism” weren’t making much of an impact. As regular readers might recall, GOP operatives started using “fascism” instead.
There was nothing about the Democratic White House’s agenda that resembled fascism in any way, but Republicans thought it sounded harsh and negative, so they gave it a try.
Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party who tried to become national party chairman, told The New York Times in April 2009, “We’ve so overused the word ‘socialism’ that it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. Fascism — everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing.”
Whether it made sense or not was irrelevant. What mattered was that talk of “socialism” had become tiresome, leading lazy voices on the right to look for the next rung on the rhetorical ladder.
Fourteen years later, does Trump genuinely believe that federal law enforcement has been infiltrated by fascists? Probably not. Does the former president even know what fascism is? Again, probably not.
But he’s apparently run out of insults, and he’s loath to repeat himself, fearing that the same old lines grow stale with repetition. And so, here we are, watching Trump raise the specter of “fascists” in the FBI — because “everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing."
This post revises our related earlier coverage.