early and often

Republicans Go to the Mattresses to Defend Trump From the Feds

Trump and his loyal lieutenant Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/POOL/Getty Images

When a law-enforcement agency undertakes a stealthy investigatory action involving a private citizen, government officials are usually reticent to say much about it until the underlying facts are disclosed. But there is nothing normal about the reflexive loyalty of Republican elected officials toward Donald Trump. As my colleague Jonathan Chait explained years ago, the relationship between Trump and his top political allies is like that of a mob boss and his crew: a personal bond based on absolute loyalty, particularly when lawmen are closing in.

From that perspective, the wild reaction of major GOP figures to Monday’s FBI operation at Mar-a-Lago is understandable. The G-Men have raided the Boss’s compound! The only possible course of action for those in Trump’s service is a noisy show of loyalty coupled with threats of retaliation. The tone was immediately set by the man who expects to become the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives next year, Kevin McCarthy. He didn’t mess with attacks on the agents who violated the family sanctuary of Mar-a-Lago; his threats went right to the top of the law-enforcement hierarchy:

Trump’s previously scheduled Tuesday dinner with GOP House members has now, as the Washington Post reports, taken on the air of lieutenants getting their instructions before going to battle against their enemies:

Members of the Republican Study Committee, a conservative caucus of House Republicans, are planning to have dinner with former president Donald Trump at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., in what is expected to be a show of solidarity following the FBI search of his residence in Florida …

“We have a very close relationship with him, and the Republican Study Committee believes he’s the most effective president in a lifetime or more,” [said] Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the group’s chairman.

“Most effective president in a lifetime or more” is a nice toadying touch in referring to the capo di tutti capi. And you can expect such statements to proliferate; as Politico notes, Trump and his closest associates are watching to see who reacts most loudly to this terrible outrage to the dignity of the former president:

Donald Trump’s team and allies are moving swiftly to draw political benefit from an unannounced search by FBI agents at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home on Monday. And they’re keeping tabs of Republicans who aren’t, in their view, sufficiently rushing to his defense.

It’s interesting to watch Republican politicians who can barely draw a breath without making law-and-order appeals for total solidarity with police attack the entire federal law-enforcement system as corrupt and evil. Here was the reaction to the raid from New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who became the third-ranking House Republican when Wyoming’s Liz Cheney was defenestrated for cooperating with those allegedly persecuting Trump:

The FBI’s raid on President Trump’s Florida home is a dark day in American history. The political weaponization of the FBI and Department of Justice is an actual threat to democracy. There is a reason that Americans no longer trust these agencies. This is the same corrupt agency that illegally fabricated FISA warrants, knowingly deceived Americans about Russian “collusion” for years, and weaponized itself to perpetuate this hoax with their all-too-eager mainstream media accomplices. This is the same agency that protected Hillary Clinton, James Comey, and continues to lie to protect Hunter Biden.

The emerging GOP line is that of open contempt for federal law enforcement on grounds that “the Regime” — the term used by Florida governor Ron DeSantis among others for the government of the United States — has forfeited all rights to obedience. This is offered as an excuse for the lack of interest among Trump’s defenders for the underlying facts of the raid, as the Claremont Institute’s Ben Weingarten made clear at Newsweek, expanding “the Regime” to include all of MAGA-land’s shadowy enemies:

Having suffered what it perceived to be a near-death experience in the election of Donald Trump, The Regime must now show that anyone and everyone from the lowliest of non-violent January 6-ers held in pretrial detention to Trump himself can, and will, be crushed if they dare to not submit …

Today, the choice is this: You either stand with our totalitarian regime, or you stand with the Americans it seeks to bring to heel.

Those who are silent will be complicit in the horrors to which our nation will be subjected.

This explicit rejection of the legitimacy of federal law is what seems to be implicitly embraced by all the Republican politicians and conservative voices attacking the Mar-a-Lago raid without so much as a scintilla of knowledge about the operation’s purposes or findings. For all they know, evidence seized in the raid could be damning. But that’s not the point, it seems. It’s a compelling opportunity for Trump’s party to show that their loyalty to him and their hatred of his tormentors endures and may even be intensifying as he prepares a 2024 return to power on a message of vengeance.

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Republicans Go to the Mattresses to Defend Trump From Feds