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EDITORIAL

Reckless anti-raid rhetoric fuels surge in violence

Responsible Republicans can help douse the flames before it’s too late.

Representative Paul Gosar said in a statement shortly after the raid, “We must destroy the FBI. We must save America. I stand with Donald J. Trump.”Adriana Zehbrauskas/NYT

A lone gunman attempts to attack an Ohio FBI office and is shot after a chase and standoff. The federal magistrate judge who issued a search warrant for Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate has come under vicious antisemitic rants and the synagogue where he worships was threatened. The names of two FBI agents who signed off on that warrant were leaked to a right-wing website, endangering them and their families.

This is what the Party of Trump has wrought. This is what some members of a party that once claimed to stand for law and order have descended to. The Republican Party is now deeply divided between those so besotted by Trump that they are willing to throw the rule of law — and those charged with enforcing it — under the bus, and a handful of grown-ups still able to see the truth and the danger he poses to the nation.

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The Party of Trump with its rhetorical assaults on this nation’s institutions — the FBI, the Justice Department, federal judges — has touched off a surge of violence in the wake of the Mar-a-Lago search. That search, let’s not forget, yielded 11 sets of classified documents, including some in the “top secret/sensitive compartmented information,” the highest category of government secrets. Those Republican Party leaders who choose to remain silent — who do nothing in the face of this escalating threat — are aiding and abetting that violence.

It’s hardly the first time Trump and his congressional GOP echo chamber have refused to condemn the very violence their words have ignited. As an angry mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, threatening the life of his own vice president, Trump watched cable TV. It took him hours to respond and when he did he praised the rioters as “special people.”

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The current threat level was the subject of a bulletin issued by the FBI and the Department of Homeland security Friday and first reported by CBS News.

“The FBI and DHS have observed an increase in threats to federal law enforcement and, to a lesser extent, other law enforcement and government officials following the FBI’s recent execution of a search warrant in Palm Beach, Florida,” the joint bulletin said. “These threats are occurring primarily online and across multiple platforms, including social media sites, web forums, video sharing platforms, and image boards.”

Those included a threat to place a dirty bomb (one containing radioactive nuclear materials) in front of FBI headquarters, general calls for “civil war” and “armed rebellion,” specific threats to the Florida judge who issued the warrant, and to other “possible targets of violence” listed online by their home addresses along with the names of family members, the bulletin noted.

It also referenced the Thursday attack on the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office by a man armed with an AR-style rifle and a nail gun.

And it spoke to the inexorable truth that among the “drivers” that “could escalate the threat environment,” are “statements by public officials which incite violence.”

There have been far too many examples of those, beginning with Trump himself, berating the FBI and making references to this being a “banana republic” on his social media site, TruthSocial. As recently as Sunday evening he called the search an “abuse in law enforcement” and a “sneak attack on democracy.”

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Monday, however, he went on Fox News vowing to do “whatever we can do to help,” saying the “temperature has to be brought down.” And in the next breath he resumed calling the previous FBI investigation of his Russian ties a “witch hunt,” adding that his supporters are “not going to stand for another scam.”

Prior to the unsealing of the list of documents seized last week, Senate minority leader Kevin McCarthy threatened Attorney General Merrick Garland with a congressional investigation.

“When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned,” McCarthy said. “Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”

McCarthy has been silent since then.

Representative Paul Gosar said in a statement shortly after the raid, “We must destroy the FBI. We must save America. I stand with Donald J. Trump.”

Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, whined in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray about why he “first learned of this raid on President Trump’s residence via the media.”

And then there are a few profiles in courage.

Representative Liz Cheney, a member of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, took to Twitter to criticize her fellow Republicans, writing, “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. These are sickening comments that put the lives of patriotic public servants at risk.”

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Cheney, according to recent polls, is expected to pay dearly in Tuesday’s primary election in Wyoming for choosing truth and the rule of law over loyalty to Donald Trump.

A few other grown-ups like Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Sunday came to the defense of the FBI, reminding their Republican colleagues that their party has long prided itself on being a friend to law enforcement.

“There are threats all over the place, and losing faith in our federal law enforcement officers, in our justice system, is a really serious problem for the country,” Hogan said on ABC’s “This Week.”

But in the halls of Congress, the silence is deafening — and silence in the face of continued threats and violence is simply wrong. It is watching a fire burn and never reaching for the firehose. It’s not too late to redeem a party that is being consumed by those flames but that will take the courage to say and to do the right thing — before it’s too late.


Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.