The GOP incites calls for civil war after Trump raid
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“Civil war coming to America, there won’t be any more elections.”
“It certainly feels like they’re treating it as a hot civil war. When this is all said and done, the people responsible for these tyrannical actions need to be hanged.”
“I already bought my ammo.”
These were just some of the online responses to the FBI search of Trump’s Florida estate this week. The raid concerned presidential records—including some reportedly marked Top Secret—that Trump removed from the White House when he left office in January 2021, according to a Trump lawyer. Despite obvious parallels to Hillary Clinton’s conduct that inspired joyous “lock her up” chants, the investigation into Trump is being treated on the right as a Deep State plot to sink Trump’s potential 2024 presidential nomination after stealing the 2020 election from the “rightful” president.
Not a stranger to embracing a victim mentality, Trump himself seized on the search—conducted by his own FBI Director, Christopher Wray—to portray himself as a lonely David figure against the Goliath of federal government:
I stood up to America’s bureaucratic corruption, I restored power to the people, and truly delivered for our Country, like we have never seen before. The establishment hated it. Now, as they watch my endorsed candidates win big victories, and see my dominance in all polls, they are trying to stop me, and the Republican party, once more. The lawlessness, political persecution, and Witch Hunt must be exposed and stopped. I will continue to fight for the Great American People!
Republican lawmakers quickly took to his defense on social media, parroting his attacks on Democrats and the establishment in a way that should be familiar to anyone who lived through Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
“The continued weaponization of the federal government against its citizens and political opponents continues under the Biden/Garland march toward a police state,” Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) exclaimed on Twitter.
Some, like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), chose to blame Biden personally (with no evidence): “Biden is playing with fire by using a document dispute to get the @TheJusticeDept to persecute a likely future election opponent Because one day what goes around is going to come around And then we become Nicaragua under Ortega.”
The Trumpiest wing of the Republican party undercut the neutrality of federal law enforcement, somehow managing to embrace a “defund the police” motto with no cognitive dissonance.
“Congress must look into the viability of our federal law enforcement agencies that abuse their authorities for political purposes. Rogue individuals within the FBI and DOJ are violating their oath of office by not upholding the law and they need to be held more accountable,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) tweeted.
“We must destroy the FBI. We must save America,” said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ).
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) spent her time after the search of Trump’s resort calling for the impeachment of Biden, shouting “DEFUND THE FBI!”, and posting an image of an upside-down American flag.
Republican-friendly media outlets have gone all in on the “Witch Hunt” narrative, with Fox News host Jesse Watters claiming that the FBI “planted bugs” and “evidence” during the search of Mar-a-Lago.
At the base of these proclamations is the belief that Republican presidents, even when out of office, are above the law, and that law enforcement only exists to tie up the lower classes in a legal morass. It is textbook authoritarianism: The FBI must be punished for investigating whether a former president broke the law. The former president must not be punished for breaking federal laws.
Emboldened by an evidence-free gut feeling of persecution, Republicans are setting the country up for another wave of domestic attacks inspired by their stochastic terrorism tactics.
Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass media to provoke statistically predictable, but random, acts of ideologically motivated violence. The best example of such rhetoric causing violence is the January 6th insurrection. Then-president Trump did not tell his followers to beat up Capitol police officers or seek out Vice President Mike Pence to “hang” him. Instead, he picked a date, tweeting “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” He repeatedly shared a video titled “The Plot to Steal America,” that called for Trump supporters to mobilize to protect “our rights” and warned, “we will fight to the death to protect those rights.”
“You’ll never take back our country with weakness,” Trump told the agitated crowd—filled with people he knew carried firearms—on the 6th. “You have to show strength.” And: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
The language was specifically chosen to incite violence while retaining plausible deniability. It is also the definition of stochastic terrorism, with Trump at the head of an amorphous crowd of domestic terrorists that have long operated under the surface of America’s national consciousness.
The first surge of right-wing terrorism in recent history occurred in the mid-to-late 1990s in response to the election of Bill Clinton, the passage of gun control measures, and the deadly standoffs at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas. This period started with the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh, killing 168 people. McVeigh hoped to inspire a revolution against the “tyrannical” federal government, acting out of revenge for the sieges at Waco and Ruby Ridge.
The following five years were filled with arrests of far-right extremists plotting to attack government buildings and targeting non-white Americans. No corner of the country was spared, with incidents from Washington to Georgia, from Michigan to New Hampshire.
Right-wing terror decreased, but did not disappear, during the early-to-mid 2000s, partly due to the election of George W. Bush and the 9/11 terror attacks dampening right-wing furor.
By the election of Barack Obama, however, right-wing terror incidents increased again—inspired by white supremacist and anti-government hatred for a Black Democrat in office and misplaced anger over the Great Recession and foreclosure crisis. A man in Oakland, California, was arrested after a shootout with police on his way to commit a mass shooting at the offices of the ACLU and an organization he believed to be tied to George Soros (using Alex Jones’ so-called evidence). A neo-Nazi in Arkansas pled guilty to fire-bombing an interracial couple’s home in 2011. A white supremacist radicalized during his time in the U.S. Army killed six people at a Wisconsin Sikh temple, possibly believing them to be Muslims. Intent on “restor[ing] America Pre-Constitutionally” and “stopping the Regime,” a Texas man was arrested for plotting to blow up government buildings, rob banks, and kill law enforcement officers.
Unlike in previous decades, today’s Republican leaders aren’t even pretending to disagree with the premise of domestic terror attacks. Perhaps as a consequence, right-wing terror incidents have only increased since the 2016 election of Donald Trump, culminating in 2020 experiencing the highest number of domestic terror plots and attacks in recent memory.
And is there any question that another right-wing terror attack will occur? The judge who signed the search warrant, Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, has already been doxxed and threatened by angry Trump supporters:
“This is the piece of shit judge who approved FBI’s raid on Mar-a-Lago,” a user wrote on the pro-Trump message board formerly known as TheDonald. “I see a rope around his neck.”
Responding, another user wrote: “Idgaf [I don’t give a fuck] anymore. Name? Address? Put that shit all up on here.” Moments later, a different member replied with what appears to be Reinhart’s current address, phone numbers, previous addresses, and names of possible relatives.
In another post on the same message board, one user commented, “Let’s find out if he has children….where they go to school, where they live…EVERYTHING.”
In response, Republican Sen. Timm Scott (SC) refused to call for his party to walk back the violent rhetoric:
Dana Bash: The judge who signed the search warrant is facing death threats…Should your Republican colleagues tone down the rhetoric?
Tim Scott: I’m asking my friends on the other side, ‘wait, don’t rush to judgment.’ But this is without question a very daring and dangerous move on the Department of Justice’s side. I can’t imagine them finding a smoking gun in the midst of what they’re looking for, through the Presidential Records Act. I’m stunned that they did it.
Bash: You said the folks on the other side should hold off. It’s some of the folks on your side, including and starting with the former president, he’s the one who broke the news with a really incendiary statement. Should they tone it down? Because there’s potential for things to go south quickly.
Scott: I would say without hesitation that every single member of the American family should be very concerned when you feel like there is a weaponization of the Department of Justice against any individual, much less a former president.
FBI agents, too, have received threats in the aftermath of the Mar-a-Lago search, prompting FBI Director Wray to warn on Wednesday that “violence against law enforcement is not the answer, no matter who you’re upset with.”
It is only a matter of time until the next terror attack motivated by right-wing animus occurs. The ingredients are all in place: violent rhetoric, the proliferation of firearms, and an election of immense importance to the future of our country.
I do not consider myself guilty. I admit all the factual aspects of the charge. But I cannot plead that I am guilty of high treason; for there can be no high treason against that treason to the Fatherland committed in 1918.
Those were Adolf Hitler’s words of self-defense at his trial for his 1923 Munich coup. He argued that the government was illegitimate so he committed no crime in attempting to overthrow it. Sound familiar?