Florida politicians put FBI employees’ lives at risk

I am both dismayed and angered by the tone of the comments by Gov. Ron DeSantis, our U.S. Senators and our local congressmen on the recent search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

I understand and appreciate that the search was an extraordinary and apparently unprecedented action, and I have no problem with demanding accountability. However, what worries me greatly is the disingenuous and shameful rhetoric of Florida politicians who feel compelled to attack our federal police officers.

For example:

  • DeSantis tweeted that the search of Trump’s home was another “escalation in arming federal agencies against political opponents of the regime.”
  • Senator Marco Rubio suggested the search is “something we have seen many times in third world Marxist dictatorships. But never before in America.”
  • Rubio’s fellow Florida senator, Rick Scott, compared the federal government’s actions to those of the “Gestapo, people like that.”
  • US Rep. Vern Buchanan called the search an “abuse of power” – and another congressman from the region, US Rep. Greg Steube, said it was “premeditated, political targeting”.

Now that the warrant has been released, we now know that it was issued by a federal judge based on a supporting affidavit from the FBI and Department of Justice — and after the judge determined a sufficient legal basis for the warrant to be issued. A list of the items confiscated, including some top-secret documents, was also returned to the issuing court. By all accounts, the warrant was issued and executed in full compliance with federal law.

FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks to reporters at the Omaha FBI Office in Omaha, Neb. in Palm Beach, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022 (Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

Despite these facts, DeSantis has continued to claim that the Justice Department and FBI have been “armed” and that they “enforce the law based on who they like and who they dislike.”

Inflammatory comments such as these only serve to erode public confidence in our vital institutions of law enforcement and the judiciary, and they slander and disparage those who work in those institutions. We have the right to expect and demand better things from our elected political leaders.

For example, while Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has expressed concern about the search, the Republican has also noted that the FBI is merely performing its statutory duties. Hutchinson said if “the GOP is going to be the party in support of law enforcement, law enforcement will include the FBI.”

And while former Vice President Mike Pence joined Hutchinson in urging the Justice Department to fully explain why the search was necessary, he also urged his Republican counterparts to stop vilifying federal agents. “These attacks on the FBI need to stop,” Pence said.

Unfortunately, here’s what has happened in the days and weeks since Trump’s home was searched:

  • The federal judge who issued the warrant and his family are facing violent, racist and vile threats.
  • A person armed with an AR-15 and a nail gun was shot dead after attempting to break into an Ohio FBI office.
  • A Pennsylvania man has been arrested after he posted threats to kill FBI agents on social media.
  • Death threats have been made against two FBI agents – and their families – after the agents’ names were revealed when an undredacted copy of the warrant and return was leaked.

In addition, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a joint intelligence bulletin detailing an “unprecedented” number of threats against government officials. In fact, some of my friends and former colleagues have expressed concerns that I may be putting myself and my family at risk simply by writing this guest column.

Can’t we just take a deep breath and let the legal process run its course without demonizing the men and women of the FBI—and without further jeopardizing their safety and that of their families?

Joseph Davis served as a special agent with the FBI for more than two decades. He was Assistant Director of the FBI’s Legal Services Division for over eight years. He is now retired and lives in Southwest Florida.

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