A handful of Republican governors have criticized the “outrageous rhetoric” of their party colleagues in the US Congress, who have accused federal law enforcement officers of a politicized attack on former president Donald Trump after executing a court-approved search warrant on his Florida home this week.
Maryland governor Larry Hogan, a Republican moderate, described attacks by party members as both “absurd” and “dangerous”, after a week in which certain Republicans have compared the FBI to the Gestapo and fundraised off the slogan: “Defund the FBI”.
Speaking to ABC News on Sunday, Hogan described the comparisons of the FBI to Nazi Germany’s secret police, made by Florida senator Rick Scott, as “very concerning to me, it’s outrageous rhetoric”.
He added: “It’s absurd and, you know, it’s dangerous,” especially after an armed man enraged by the raid was killed in Ohio when he tried to invade an FBI office. “There are threats all over the place and losing faith in our federal law enforcement officers and our justice system is a really serious problem for the country.”
On Monday, FBI agents executed a search warrant at the former president’s private members club and residence in south Florida with an unsealed warrant later revealing Trump is under investigation for potential violation of the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice over his alleged mishandling of classified documents.
The episode inflamed conservative commentators and politicians still deeply loyal to the former president, and was followed by the attack on the FBI field office in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Thursday, which led to a six-hour armed standoff that left the lone gunman shot dead.
Hogan, who is rumored to be considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, argued that many of his colleagues in Washington had been “jumping to conclusions without any information, which I think was wrong”.
He added that revelations in the unsealed warrant were a “serious concern” but argued investigators should provide further details on the contents of the seized documents.
Hogan’s comments were followed by remarks from Arkansas’s Republican governor Asa Hutchinson, who appeared on CNN on Sunday and partially mirrored his Maryland counterpart.
“If the GOP is going to be the party of supporting law enforcement, law enforcement includes the FBI,” Hutchinson, a former US prosecutor and private practice attorney, said.
He added: “We need to pull back on casting judgment on them. … No doubt that higher ups in the FBI have made mistakes, they do it, I’ve defended cases as well, and I’ve seen wrong actions. But we cannot say that whenever they [FBI officers] went in and did that search that they were not doing their job as law enforcement officers.”
The comments marked a growing split on the extremist rhetoric from certain Republican party members following the execution of the search warrant. Many senior senate Republicans have remained largely quiet in the wake of the unprecedented law enforcement action, while others have appeared on conservative news channels supporting baseless accusations that the FBI planted evidence during the search.
The Republican congresswoman from Wyoming Liz Cheney, a ranking member on the House committee investigating the January 6th attack on the US capitol, has condemned her colleagues’ rhetoric as “sickening”.
“I have been ashamed to hear members of my party attacking the integrity of the FBI agents involved with the recent Mar-a-Lago search,” Cheney wrote on Thursday. “These are sickening comments that put the lives of patriotic public servants at risk.”
Her stance is slowly being mirrored by other House Republicans after the warrant was made public on Friday.
Dan Crenshaw, a Republican congressman from Texas told Axios on Saturday that sloganeering against the FBI “makes you look unserious”. And ranking homeland security committee member John Katko told the website: “This is not something you rush to judgment on. ... It’s incumbent upon everybody to take a deep breath.”
Meanwhile on Sunday, the White House continued refraining from commenting on the search warrant. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre repeatedly declined to answer questions on the matter during an interview with ABC News, citing the US justice department’s independence on law enforcement matters.
When shown video of comments made by House Republican Elise Stefanik, a staunch Trump loyalist, who described the search as “complete abuse and overreach” by the FBI, Jean-Pierre broadly fired back.
She said: “The Department of Justice, when it comes to law enforcement, is independent. This is what we believe, and this is what the president has said. This is not about politicizing anything. That is not true at all.”
Jean-Pierre added a reminder that US attorney general Merrick Garland was confirmed by the US Senate in bipartisan vote, and that Trump nominated FBI director Christopher Wray to his position in 2017.