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The FBI is still Trumpland


One of the craziest bits of propaganda Republicans and their fellow travelers have been able to gain traction on is the idea that the FBI is a hive of anti-Trump activists. This has always been an inversion of the truth, and as Adam Serwer observes, still is:

The way conservatives tell it, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is a hive of anti-Trump villainy, filled with agents looking for any excuse to hound the former president with investigative witch hunts. But the thing to understand about Donald Trump’s legal troubles is that they exist not because federal agents are out to get him, but despite the fact that the FBI is full of Trump supporters who would really like to leave him alone.

This morning, The Washington Post reported that FBI investigators clashed with federal prosecutors over the decision to search the former president’s residence, where highly classified documents were found despite Trump’s insistence that he had none.

Some of those field agents wanted to shutter the criminal investigation altogether in early June,” the Post reported, adding that FBI agents were “simply afraid” and “worried taking aggressive steps investigating Trump could blemish or even end their careers.” The FBI did not exhibit this worry in 2016, when it publicly announced that it was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified documents, an announcement that, even with all the other mistakes her campaign made, likely cost Clinton the election. That decision was made in part because then-Director James Comey feared that pro-Trump FBI agents would leak the details if he did not announce them publicly. The federal investigation into the Trump campaign, by contrast, was properly kept confidential until after the election. As one agent told the reporter Spencer Ackerman in 2016, “The FBI is Trumpland.”

President Joe Biden is also under investigation for his mishandling of classified documents, but for now the two situations are distinguished by Biden’s attorneys discovering and voluntarily handing those documents over, as opposed to lying about having them and then insisting that they were his to keep. Neither man, however, should be above prosecution if the circumstances call for it.

A simple but obvious fact has been lost over the past few years, amid Trump’s direct attacks on the FBI, and liberal defenses of the FBI against those attacks: FBI agents are cops. Law-enforcement officers, including the FBI, have long been disproportionately conservative, but in the past few decades, like the rest of the nation, they have also become far more polarized by party, a reality reflected in the rhetoric and positioning of advocacy groups such as the Fraternal Order of Police. There are liberal and moderate cops, but they are not close to comprising a majority. Simply put, the FBI is full of people who would prefer not to investigate Donald Trump. He remains under federal investigation only because of his own inability to stop criming.

The success of this obviously false misdirection campaign although the FBI was probably a but-for condition for Trump becoming president is astounding. And I’m sure it will remain durable.

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