Republicans Are Playing with Fire by Disparaging the FBI

When partisans become convinced that institutions are controlled by the other side, they stop listening to them.

View of FBI headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, in Washington DC, March 10, 2010
View of FBI headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, in Washington DC, March 10, 2010 (F. Delventhal)

Having undermined Americans’ trust in the media, the courts, public education, science and Congress, Republicans are now turning on one of the few institutions that still command wide respect: the FBI.

In their desperation to save Donald Trump from scandal, Republicans are concocting wild conspiracy theories of FBI agents scheming to overturn the 2016 election.

This hysteria will not be without consequence. When partisans become convinced that the institutions of government have been taken over by the other side, they stop listening to them. When those institutions are law enforcement, the dangers are obvious.

Parroting

It’s one thing for clowns in the right-wing media to call for a “purge” of the “deep state”, but now Republican lawmakers are parroting the same talking points.

South Carolina’s Trey Gowdy has seized on one FBI agent’s sarcastic text message to allege there is an anti-Trump “secret society” in the agency.

Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson claims to have been told by an “informant” that “secret meetings” were held to plot Trump’s overthrow.

California’s Devin Nunes, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, has made theater by commissioning a classified memo and then trumping up support for its release — when he has the power to release the memo any time he wants!

The president himself has hardly been a voice of reason, insinuating that the FBI deleted text messages that might incriminate its agents.

The point of all this: to discredit the investigation of former FBI director and now-Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Take this seriously

It’s all so patently political, and so obviously fabricated, that it’s tempting to take none of it seriously.

Except Trump’s supporters do.

Conservatives who get their “news” from Breitbart, Drudge Report and Fox News do.

Republicans are playing with fire. And they should know! Trump’s very presidency is the outgrowth of years of Republican attacks on institutions and norms.

Rather than recognize their mistake and repair the damage they have done, at least some Republicans — very few have spoken out against this madness — are determined to burn everything down.