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Opinion The GOP’s crazed reaction to the search at Trump’s home shows its true colors

A demonstrator outside Trump Tower in New York City on Aug. 9. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee tweeted out this brilliant response to the search at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence: “If they can do it to a former President, imagine what they can do to you.”

Well, yes, that is how the rule of law works. If you had committed acts that would persuade a judge to sign off on a search warrant, you, too, would be visited by law enforcement.

This should be obvious, yet it was not just a stray Republican staffer on the Judiciary Committee who was outraged to find that the defeated former president was subjected to a search warrant. The entire Republican Party went to Defcon 1. What followed was a barrage of attacks on law enforcement, pledges of fidelity to a cult leader undergoing multiple federal and state investigations, and vows of revenge. Oh, and now it’s Republicans who want to defund law enforcement.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) cooked up arguably the most ludicrous non-sequitur in a tweet: “After todays raid on Mar A Lago what do you think the left plans to use those 87,000 new IRS agents for?” For enforcing tax laws, perhaps?

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More screeching came from possible 2024 contenders (including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, even though he has the most to gain from Trump’s political demise), rabid MAGA lawmakers and hapless House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who all characterized the search as an outrageous weaponization of the FBI. How far we’ve come from the “lock her up” chants aimed at Hillary Clinton for her comparatively minor offense of mishandling emails.

McCarthy tweeted:

He’s “seen enough,” meaning he chooses to remain willfully indifferent to the reason for the warrant and the apparent fear that Trump might destroy documents.

Just as McCarthy fumbled his last chance to be speaker by confessing that the Benghazi hearings were all about lowering then-future presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval ratings, the Republican leader has given away the game here. He made clear that Republicans will be out for revenge, using and abusing whatever power they have to cripple law enforcement in defense of the besieged leader of the coup attempt. If one needed any more reason to keep Republicans out of power (beyond their propagation of the “big lie,” whitewashing of Jan. 6, attempts to undermine the sanctity of elections, etc.), their willingness to deploy congressional power against political enemies should certainly qualify.

Republicans’ over-the-top reaction comes in a couple of varieties. In one category are the career-climbers who likely have never bought into Trump’s excuses but capitulate whenever Trump and his MAGA cult demand a show of support.

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For example, Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin surely understands why a warrant requiring probable cause was approved to seize materials from Mar-a-Lago. But the now-familiar blend of cowardice and ambition required his absurd response: “A stunning move by the DOJ and FBI,” he tweeted. “This same DOJ labeled parents in Loudoun County as terrorists and failed to enforce federal law to protect Justices in their homes. Selective, politically motivated actions have no place in our democracy.”

In another category are the crazed and at times violent threats from supporters, not unlike the kind we saw regarding the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The category of cynical Republicans who parrot Trump propaganda and false claims of victimhood risk riling up these unstable and dangerous forces, just as GOP lawmakers did by mouthing lies about a stolen election.

The warrant’s execution tells us more about the Trump and MAGA mind-set than it does the particulars of any alleged crimes. This is a party that automatically delegitimizes and attacks law enforcement when it is under scrutiny. When in power, it weaponizes law enforcement to attack political enemies invoking crazed conspiracy theories.

This is how fascist movements operate. They use violence and the threat of violence to achieve their goals. They deploy state power to debilitate opposition. They demonize an independent judiciary and utilize captive media to keep supporters in a state of fury. Voters should use extreme care as they make their midterm decisions.

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