The far-right in the United States responded ominously to the FBI's Monday night search of former President Donald Trump's Florida mansion, with Republican lawmakers and television personalities baselessly accusing the Biden administration of weaponizing the Justice Department and popular as well as anonymous social media users beating the drums of a civil war.
"Lock and load," says the top comment related to the Mar-a-Lago search on patriots.win—a pro-Trump comment forum that emerged after Reddit banned the r/The_Donald group of nearly 800,000 for repeatedly posting racist and misogynistic content in violation of its rules against harassment and targeting.
When one user asks, "Are we not in a cold civil war at this point?" another suggests that violence is imminent, with "authentic pain" coming soon.
According to NBC News reporter Ben Collins, the content shared on pro-Trump forums Monday night was arguably even more violent than what was posted in the lead-up to the deadly January 6, 2021 attack.
As he did before last year's insurrection at the Capitol, Trump only has "to ask us," notes one commenter. Another writes: "None of this demonstrating in the snow shit. Summertime was made for killing fields."
It wasn't just anonymous posters threatening to mow down their perceived political enemies. For instance, highly influential reactionary Steven Crowder tweeted, "Tomorrow is war," followed less than 12 hours later by, "Today is war." The NRA also leapt at the opportunity to boost gun sales.
Fox News hosts and guests, meanwhile, quickly disparaged the Mar-a-Lago search as a "partisan witch hunt," "dark day for our republic," "preemptive coup," "Third World bullshit," and the work of the "Gestapo" and "Stasi," as documented by Media Matters for America.
The right-wing outrage machine was adopting talking points that Trump laid out in a statement portraying himself as the victim of "prosecutorial misconduct, the weaponization of the justice system, and an attack by radical left Democrats who desperately don't want me to run for president."
"Such an assault could only take place in broken, third world countries. Sadly, America has now become one of those countries, corrupt at a level not seen before," said Trump. "The lawlessness, political persecution, and witch hunt must be exposed and stopped."
As The Washington Post reported Tuesday:
We don't yet know much about what was in the search warrant used to raid Donald Trump's residence at Mar-a-Lago on Monday. We do know that the raid concerned the removal of classified documents from the White House and that, according to Trump, agents raided his safe.
But we also quickly found out that a lot of influential people are rather uninterested in any of that, reflexively shouting "witch hunt" and baselessly blaming President [Joe] Biden for the raid in a way that bodes very poorly for whatever comes next in this process. Trump has marshaled his army of supporters to declare, in knee-jerk fashion, any legal scrutiny of him a deep-state operation.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) endorsed Trump's unsubstantiated claim that the Biden White House is "using government power to persecute political opponents," calling it "something we have seen many times" from authoritarian regimes in impoverished nations "but never before in America." The House Judiciary Committee's Republicans, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), echoed that message.
During an appearance on Fox News, Jordan demanded that Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray—a Trump appointee—answer the GOP's questions about Monday night's search at Mar-a-Lago.
As Media Matters senior fellow Matthew Gertz explained, the Justice Department is not yet able to provide details given the ongoing nature of investigations into Trump's attempt to overthrow the U.S. government and other possible crimes, so the ex-president and his allies are "filling that vacuum" with baseless allegations of political malfeasance.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a statement that "when Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned," telling Garland: "Preserve your documents and clear your calendar."
Despite the fact that Garland hasn't yet publicly responded to the GOP's planned inquiry, McCarthy concluded that "the Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization" while Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel declared that "Democrats continually weaponize the bureaucracy against Republicans."
As the Post noted: "That's a lot of firm conclusions based on not much at all. But it's the fruit of years of Trump claiming persecution."
The newspaper continued:
This investigation hardly comes out of nowhere: Trump's handling of government documents has long been a focal point. The Washington Post reported as far back as February on Trump's "relentless document destruction habits." A couple of days later, the National Archives confirmed that it had retrieved 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago—including records marked as "classified" and even "top secret"—that should have been turned over, and then asked the Justice Department to investigate, which it clearly has.
The question from there is whether this is a matter that merits a search warrant. That the Justice Department would go this route would seem to suggest it sees something potentially incriminating beyond merely shoddy record-keeping and document retention. The department knows this decision will be harshly scrutinized; going down this path only for its destination to be a minor finding, ending in a slap on the wrist, isn't worth the blowback it'll get from 40% to 45% of the country.
Ironically, the Post added, Trump's supporters were "once quite consumed with the import of document security by would-be presidential candidates—and quite happy to promote the idea that their preferred candidate ought to 'lock' such an opponent 'up.'"
Trump relentlessly attacked his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton over her private email server during the 2016 presidential campaign. Right-wing media outlets and members of Congress who condemned Clinton had much less to say when it was revealed that Trump unlawfully took documents to Mar-a-Lago.
Trump also tried to use his power as president to harm his political rivals, repeatedly asking Ukraine's president to investigate Hunter Biden. And although Clinton's home wasn't searched, the FBI did conduct a public probe of her use of a private email server in 2016—possibly contributing to her failure to win the White House that year.