Washington, Aug 10 (IANS): Outraged Republican allies have demanded an explanation after federal agents conducted an unannounced raid at former US President Donald Trump's Florida home, Mar-a-Lago.
Monday's surprise search and seizure of documents at Mar-a-Lago elicited a forceful reaction from top Republican and conservative officials, many of whom condemned the federal law enforcement agencies, talked openly of retribution and even spoke of defunding them outright, reports dpa news agency.
"This should scare the living daylights out of American citizens, and say, we have got to change our federal government," said Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida, during an interview Tuesday on Fox Business.
"The way our federal government has gone, it's like what we thought about the Gestapo, people like that. They just go after people."
The response from Republicans risks putting the party at odds with its stated support for law-and-order policies, particularly as they continue to insist that Democrats want to defund police departments nationwide.
And although Republicans from top to bottom have been critical of the FBI's action, some party leaders have stopped short of blunt calls to censure the agency, while others have urged their grassroots activists to hold off on judgment until the reasons for the search warrant become more clear.
A source familiar with the matter said federal prosecutors have been investigating Trump on two fronts, including his handling of classified information and his potential role in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
A separate source close to the investigation said FBI agents seized dozens of boxes of what could be classified materials, after establishing probable cause with a federal magistrate in West Palm Beach, Florida.
But most top Republicans, including House Leader Kevin McCarthy, accused the nation's top law enforcement agencies of carrying out a political agenda instead of serving justice.
The DOJ, McCarthy said in a statement, had "reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization".
"When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned," the California Republican said. "Attorney General (Merrick) Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar."
Other Republicans went even further, threatening to withhold funding from the nation's most well-known law enforcement agency.
"Defund the FBI," tweeted Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia.
Republicans have increased their criticism of the FBI and Department of Justice since the start of Trump's presidency in 2017, after it was revealed the probe agency had investigated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties between the country and Trump's campaign.
Trump fired former FBI director James Comey in 2017, less than halfway into his 10-year term.
The distrust deepened during the investigation into possible collusion between Trump and a foreign adversary by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which became a frequent target of the president while in office. Mueller's report, released in 2019, stopped short of recommending charges against the president or members of his campaign but has been derided by conservatives ever since.
"After years where FBI agents were found to be acting on political motivation during our administration, the appearance of continued partisanship by the Justice Department must be addressed," said Mike Pence, Trump's former Vice President.
But the criticism after Monday's search and seizure at Mar-a-Lago was often specific, offering not just a broad critique of the law enforcement agencies but proposing specific actions that Republicans would take if they win control of Congress during this year's midterm elections.
"At a minimum, Garland must resign or be impeached," Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley tweeted. "The search warrant must be published. (FBI Director) Christoper Wray must be removed. And the FBI reformed top to bottom."
Wray was appointed by Trump in 2017. Garland was appointed by President Joe Biden and confirmed by the Senate last year.
Other Republicans, however issued a more measured response. Tim Scott, a Republican senator from South Carolina, urged people on Tuesday not to rush to judgment, saying he wasn't sure what the FBI is investigating or what it found.
"This is going to raise more questions, in my opinion," Scott told CBS News. "We need to let this play out and see exactly what happens."
Scott is seen as a possible 2024 Republican presidential candidate, though he has repeatedly praised Trump and his actions as president.