The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘Defund the FBI?’ Sounds familiar. But not from this crowd.

The FBI building in Washington. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

So are the defunding tribes friends now?

Just trying to keep up here. Because the traditionally pro-law enforcement folks on the right U-turned faster than a mall cop who’d passed a Krispy Kreme sign after law and order finally arrived at Mar-a-Lago this weekend.

Suddenly, Trumpsters who recoiled when protesters dared chant “Black Lives Matter” after the police killing of George Floyd are borrowing one of their lines.

“Defund the FBI,” read the T-shirts that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) began hawking after law enforcement officers retrieved boxes of allegedly top-secret documents from former president Donald Trump’s home in Florida.

They’re just like the “Defund the Police” shirts that progressives began wearing after a police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck long enough to kill him in 2020.

Don't defund the police. Reimagine the police.

And yes, Marjorie, all law enforcement agencies in our nation are flawed.

But the facts were missing in the head-spinning flip-flops from politicians all weekend who soured on their back-the-badge messages when the badges didn’t back up their delusions about Trump.

“The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted after the Mar-a-Lago search, adding to calls to “Defund the FBI,” warnings that other Americans will be similarly searched and the doxing of agents who were at Mar-a-Lago.

During a Police Week speech in May, McCarthy said he was worried about “hateful rhetoric” and policies that have helped create an “environment of rising crime and put our officers in danger.”

When Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) visited police officers in his home state a year ago, he promised to fight against the movement to defund police and was upset with the way law enforcement officers are seen.

“I think the media and many in the public are treating and portraying law enforcement as if you’re 99 percent bad,” he told officers in Erlanger, Ky. “I think it’s the opposite — I think 99 percent or higher are good and there’s occasionally bad people.”

But over the weekend, Paul did something dangerous, treating and portraying the law enforcement officers at Mar-a-Lago as 100 percent bad.

“Do I know that the boxes of material they took from Mar-a-Lago, that they won’t put things into those boxes to entrap him?” Paul said, on Fox News. “How do we know? … How do we know they’re going to be honest with us about what’s actually in the boxes?”

This is no different than wondering how it is we know that Paul isn’t a serial killer, an alien or a stray dog hoarder. We have no evidence. And neither does he.

The seizure of those documents is part of a fact-finding mission. It’s how the FBI operates, because “there is a fear of not identifying a threat of crime by not taking chances and risks,” said James S. Davidson, a former agent who now runs the FBI Integrity Project. “The FBI would rather be proactive and wrong than inactive and miss a legitimate threat.”

The Trump defenders haven’t waited for facts and have instead warned their followers that they could be next. It’s a pattern they’ve repeated — to great harm, from pandemic misinformation to election fraud to alleged child trafficking run out of the basement of a D.C. pizza place that has no basement.

The dangers of fake news got all to real at a D.C. pizzeria

Here’s what they’re getting wrong: Despite being the stage where politicians orchestrate the nation’s great, political divide, everything in D.C. is not political.

While the FBI was involved in some actions at the behest of both political parties before the 1970s, “FBI agents have always kept themselves above the partisan fray,” Davidson said. “Their ethos is to gather and follow the facts.”

The law enforcement officers at the FBI, the auditors at the IRS and the thousands of other staffers who help run our country have been doing their jobs for decades, under ever-changing administrations and throughout the swishing of political pendulums. There are 373,000 federal employees in our region, according to a June 22 report by the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer. And their dedication lies with the American people, their departments, their jobs.

“The rank-and-file officers on the street and agents, they are career employees,” Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, told The Washington Post in interviews last week.

These officers “cherish the Constitution like the average American,” he said.

Already, one man covered himself in cosplay battle rattle and headed to try to raid the FBI field office in Cincinnati over the weekend. Ricky Shiffer was fatally shot by officers after the standoff. It was the second time he came to Trump’s defense — he was also at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Attacks on the FBI are feared after GOP rants

The attacks are dangerous, “reductive and self-serving” Davidson said. “And ironically, they make the FBI more, not less susceptible to undue partisan influence in the future.”

Trump thought this would be a political coup for him, that it would exercise his supporters in time for the midterm elections. And just like on Jan. 6, he’s doing nothing to protect law enforcement officers from harm.

Partisanship is becoming our nation’s roadblock to progress, in any direction. Can I encourage something to get our nation back? How about “Defund the Parties?”

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