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Some Republicans Make a More Restrained Case for Defending Trump


WASHINGTON — As Republicans continued to defend former President Donald J. Trump after an unprecedented F.B.I. search of his residence in Florida, deep fissures were visible within the party’s support for law enforcement amid a federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of top secret documents.

Immediately after the search, congressional Republicans, including members of leadership, reacted with fury, attacking the nation’s top law enforcement agencies. Some called to “defund” or “destroy” the F.B.I., and others invoked the Nazi secret police, using words like “gestapo” and “tyrants.”

More moderate voices within the party chastised their colleagues for the broadsides against law enforcement, making a more restrained case for defending Mr. Trump while also carrying out oversight of the Justice Department.

Many Republicans called for the discharge of the affidavit supporting the search warrant that was executed last Monday, which might detail the evidence that had persuaded a judge there was probable cause to imagine a search would find evidence of crimes. Such documents are typically not made public before charges are filed.

“It was an unprecedented motion that should be supported by unprecedented justification,” Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, Republican of Pennsylvania and a former F.B.I. agent, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” But he added, “I actually have urged all my colleagues to make sure that they understand the load of their words.”

The calls for a more cautious tone got here as threats emerged against law enforcement. A gunman on Thursday attacked an F.B.I. office in Cincinnati, and on Friday, the Department of Homeland Security distributed an intelligence bulletin to law enforcement across the country that warned of “a rise in threats and acts of violence, including armed encounters, against law enforcement, judiciary and government personnel” after the search.

“The F.B.I. and D.H.S. have observed a rise in violent threats posted on social media against federal officials and facilities, including a threat to position a so-called dirty bomb in front of F.B.I. headquarters and issuing general calls for ‘civil war’ and ‘armed insurrection,’” said the bulletin, which was obtained by The Latest York Times.

Adding to the sense of alarm, one other gunman crashed a automotive right into a barricade outside the Capitol around 4 a.m. on Sunday. After he exited the automotive and it became engulfed in flames, he shot into the air several times before killing himself, the Capitol Police said.

Mr. Fitzpatrick said he had begun checking in together with his former colleagues on the F.B.I. “to make sure that they were OK.”

“We’re the world’s oldest democracy, and the one way that may come unraveled is that if we have now disrespect for institutions that result in Americans turning on Americans,” he said, adding, “A whole lot of that starts with the words we’re using.”

Republicans have struggled to coalesce around a unified strategy to answer the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Fla., amid each day revelations and quickly shifting explanations, excuses, defenses and false accusations by the previous president.

On Friday, a federal judge unsealed the warrant authorizing the search and a listing of things faraway from the property by federal agents. The list showed that the F.B.I. had retrieved 11 sets of classified documents as a part of an inquiry into potential violations of the Espionage Act and two other laws.

Among the documents were marked “classified/TS/SCI” — shorthand for “top secret/sensitive compartmented information.” Such information is supposed to be viewed only in a secure government facility.

Mr. Trump and his allies have argued that former President Barack Obama also mishandled documents (an allegation quickly dismissed as false by the National Archives); that the judge who signed the warrant authorizing the search will need to have been biased; that the F.B.I. might need planted evidence; that the documents were covered by attorney-client or executive privilege; and that Mr. Trump had declassified the documents.

The previous president has worked to money in on the search.

Mr. Trump’s political motion committee has been furiously fund-raising off the F.B.I. search, sending out not less than 17 text messages to donors since Tuesday. “The Dems broke into the house of Pres. Trump,” one read. “That is POLITICAL TARGETING!” one other alleged. “THEY’RE COMING AFTER YOU!” a 3rd said.

Donald Trump Jr., the previous president’s son, wrote one other fund-raising email: “The witch hunt continues…The FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago was a DISGRACE. In reality, it’s UNFATHOMABLE.”

On Saturday, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, also called for the repeal of the Espionage Act, one in every of the statutes that prompted the investigation.

However the shifting explanations have made it difficult for Republicans, a lot of whom are wanting to please the previous president, to return along with a unified defense. They’re divided about whether to attack the nation’s top law enforcement agencies and the way aggressive to be in those attacks.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican whom the National Republican Congressional Committee is featuring in fund-raising appeals, has begun selling merchandise that claims “Defund the F.B.I.”

That may be a much different approach from Representative Michael R. Turner of Ohio, the highest Republican on the Intelligence Committee, who defended Mr. Trump on Sunday.

Republicans on the committee have said they proceed to support law enforcement. Still, they said that tough questions remained for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland about his decision to take the daring step of ordering a search of the previous president’s home, and so they promised to carry the Justice Department accountable.

“Clearly, nobody is above the law,” Mr. Turner said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Donald Trump just isn’t above the law. And Attorney General Garland just isn’t above the law, either. And Congress has the powers of oversight. He must comply.”

Mr. Turner said he had not been convinced “whether or not this actually is assessed material and whether or not it rises to the extent of the best classified material,” despite the documents released by the court.

“I’d be very surprised if he has actual documents that rise to the extent of an instantaneous national security threat,” Mr. Turner said.

Two of the laws referred to within the search warrant, nevertheless, make the taking or concealment of presidency records a criminal offense no matter whether or not they are related to national security. The third, which bars the unauthorized retention of fabric with restricted national security information, applies whether or not the fabric is assessed.

The Republican leaders within the Senate and the House, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, have also said that Mr. Garland needs to supply answers.

Mr. Garland, for his part, held a news conference on Thursday defending the way in which the Justice Department has handled the case.

“Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly, without fear or favor,” he said. “Under my watch that’s precisely what the Justice Department is doing.”

The White House, attempting to avoid the looks of partisan interference, has been reluctant to comment on the investigation. “We don’t interfere. We don’t get briefed,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding, “We’re going to let Merrick Garland speak for himself and his department.”

But other Democrats immediately seized on Republicans’ anti-law enforcement statements.

“I assumed within the old days the Republican Party used to face with law enforcement,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And I hope a few of them do today because this type of rhetoric could be very dangerous to our country.”

She identified that when she reviews classified documents she must accomplish that in a secure room. “I can’t even wear my Fitbit,” she said.

Representatives Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of Latest York and the chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, have called for the director of national intelligence to conduct an “immediate review and damage assessment” and supply a classified briefing to Congress in regards to the potential harm done to national security by Mr. Trump’s handling of documents.

“The undeniable fact that they were in an unsecure place that’s guarded with nothing greater than a padlock or whatever security they’d at a hotel is deeply alarming,” Mr. Schiff said on “Face the Nation.”

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the highest Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, called on his panel to scrutinize Mr. Garland’s actions.

“Never has a former president and potential political opponent to the sitting president been subject to such a search,” Mr. Portman said in an announcement. “The attorney general and the F.B.I. should now display unprecedented transparency and explain to the American people why they authorized the raid.”

Senator Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, took an identical approach.

“I’m not one in every of the individuals on the market that claims that, you recognize, ‘Immediately attack the F.B.I. or the Justice Department,’” he said on “Meet the Press.”

“But,” he added, “I feel it’s very necessary long run for the Justice Department, now that they’ve done this, that they show that this was not only a fishing expedition.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.

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