Republicans have decided to hound the hounds.
Understanding that they can’t throw federal investigators off the trail of multiple conservatives — including, and perhaps principally, Donald Trump — they have decided to complicate those investigations by kicking up so much dust that the public has a hard time discerning fact from fiction.
Republicans in the House of Representatives moved quickly this month to approve the formation of their so-called Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, a panel intended to investigate the federal agencies the Republicans claim are targeting conservatives.
As The New York Times wrote, “the panel has such broad reach” that it could “become a main instrument for Republicans to go after the Biden administration, potentially prompting showdowns over access to highly classified information and the details of criminal inquiries.”
But let’s be clear: The Republicans are using a fundamentally Trumpian tactic, accusing others of that which one is guilty of. It was Donald Trump, not the Democrats, who attempted to weaponize the federal government against his enemies.
Trump’s second White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, told the Times that Trump repeatedly told him he wanted the IRS to investigate his political enemies.
A former defense secretary, Mark Esper, wrote in his memoir published last year that Trump wanted the Pentagon to court-martial retired military leaders Stanley McChrystal and William H. McRaven, who had criticized Trump.
According to New York Times reporter Michael C. Bender’s book, “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost,” Trump repeatedly pressed law enforcement officials to crush unrest by American citizens during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, saying the way to “handle these people” was to “crack their skulls!”
And this all came well before the violent insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, which Trump helped incite.
The FBI and Department of Justice, institutions that sometimes stood in Trump’s way while he was in office, are now investigating him and others who may have committed crimes in service to him or out of loyalty to him. These investigations have, of course, drawn Trump’s ire and made many Republicans nervous about their own culpability.
So, in true Trump fashion, they accuse anyone looking into the possibility of their corruption of being corrupt. They spin conspiracy theories into actual contempt.
I believe Republicans are attempting to provide a counterweight to the damning evidence and testimony made public by the Jan. 6 committee. They plan to concoct an equivalency.
As part of their quest to punish the agencies attempting to hold them accountable, the party of law and order plans to go after federal law enforcement. This is how you know that the support for the Blue Lives Matter movement was a charade. They simply wanted to shield officers who disproportionately killed Black people.
For them, law enforcement has always been a tool for the control and restraint of the “other.” When law enforcement attempted to control and restrain them, they cried foul. How dare the Justice Department equally apply the law! That wasn’t the plan. That wasn’t the design.
Another tactic Republicans have started to use in recent years is the co-option of virtue, the stealing of civil rights language, the invoking of righteous causes of the past to justify their own corrupt efforts.
Republicans are comparing their new committee — one Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., correctly called an “Insurrection Protection Committee” — to the Church Committee of the 1970s, a legitimate, bipartisan, fact-finding effort that uncovered a wide range of federal abuses by agents who had targeted civil rights organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, activists protesting the Vietnam War and individuals such as Martin Luther King.
This new committee is no Church Committee; it’s a coven of conspiracy theorists.
This new House select committee will reportedly begin by going after the federal agents who tried to clamp down on unruly and sometimes violent protests over liberal school board policies by allegedly labeling some of the parents involved “domestic terrorists.” (As The Associated Press pointed out, there is “no evidence” that this ever happened.)
This, too, is a Trumpian tactic: to link Trump’s troubles to those of his followers, to create a sense they are all comrades in arms, doing battle against the same enemy.
But I believe that the Republican grievances with federal law enforcement are rooted in something deeper than Trump’s issues and the issues of complicit members of Congress. I believe it cuts to the core of conservatism and the cancer that has been allowed to grow on it.
Attorney General Merrick Garland told senators in 2021 that the greatest domestic threat facing the United States came from “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race.”
Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, specifically pointed out that: “The danger and lethality of the threat posed by domestic violent extremism is evidenced by the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and other recent attacks across our country, including against government buildings, federal personnel, and communities of color.”
Republicans would later start talking about ousting Mayorkas for his approach to border control, but his calling attention to the connection between domestic violent extremism and the Trump mob that stormed the Capitol most likely only added to their blood lust to remove him.
One of the first things to happen under the new Republican majority in the House was a Texas Republican, Rep. Pat Fallon, filing articles of impeachment against Mayorkas. Talk about weaponizing the federal government.
Charles M. Blow is a columnist for The New York Times, where this piece originally appeared.