Durbin: Trump, allies bear blame for 'stunning' rise in threats against FBI since Mar-a-Lago search
WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Chairman Richard Durbin bemoaned a "stunning" rise in threats to federal law authorities following the Aug. 8 FBI search of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, blaming the former president and his allies for "inflammatory" rhetoric contributing to the dangerous environment.
"More and more people questioning government, questioning authority, and threatening their lives in the process," Durbin told Capitol Hill reporters Thursday following a bipartisan, closed-door briefing with FBI and Homeland Security officials. "And we went into questions about how much this has increased. I will just tell you, it was stunning."
Durbin would not reveal specific numbers shared in the briefing, though he mentioned that threats from domestic extremists now rank behind only those from international drug gangs. He said the threats are being transmitted in numerous ways, including over social media where agents' personal information can be "vulnerable."
The briefing came a little more than a month after agents discovered thousands of pages of documents, including 54 marked “secret” and 18 marked “top secret," at Trump's Florida estate. The former president has declared the search an illegitimate "raid," though a federal magistrate signed off on a warrant after months of failed negotiations with the National Archives and Trump's lawyers to turn over the documents.
"What they did is terrible," Trump reiterated Thursday on the Hugh Hewitt radio show. "And I don’t think the people are going to stand for it."
Within days of the Mar-a-Lago search, authorities were already reporting specific threat incidents:
- In Ohio, a man attacked an FBI office with an AR-15 rifle and a nail gun before he was shot and killed in a police standoff. He had posted “Kill F.B.I on sight” on the Trump-backed social media site Truth Social.
- In Pittsburgh, a man was charged with influencing, impeding or retaliating against federal law officers. "I am going to (expletive) slaughter you," he wrote on the extremist social media site Gab a few days prior, according to a federal complaint.
- A handful of armed protesters gathered outside the FBI office in downtown Phoenix, and another group staked out the FBI office in Midland, Texas.
- The FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin warning of heightened security risks against their agents.
Durbin also called out Trump and political allies for ramping up rhetoric against law enforcement.
"Inviting the mob to return to the streets is exactly what happened here January 6, 2021," the senator said, referring to the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol. "This president knew what he was doing at that rally and we saw the results. Five people died, 149 law enforcement agents were injured. His careless and inflammatory rhetoric has its consequences."
Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, who last month denounced "the raid by Joe Biden’s FBI (as) an unprecedented assault on democratic norms," said Thursday Durbin's criticism is misplaced given Democrats' pointed criticisms of policing in America.
It's "a little bit rich to talk about what enforcement they have in the folks who have castigated law enforcement," he told USA TODAY. "They said that they're (law enforcement) systemically racists, that they ought to be defunded, that they ought to have their qualified immunity removed. This is the most anti-law enforcement party in American history. So I think all of that is a joke."
Contributing; Dylan Wells