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RUBEN NAVARRETTE: Don’t defund the FBI, defend it

Welcome to Part II of our awkward national conversation about defunding the police.

As with its predecessor, this installment also has a racial angle. Republicans are trying to create an artificial distinction between local and federal law enforcement. They want to keep funding local police departments — which have more daily contact with Latinos and African Americans. At the same time, some of them are calling for the defunding of federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI — just as they have long threatened to do with the IRS and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — which are often more likely to set their sights on white people.

The “defund” shoe is on the other foot. The same folks on the right who opposed calls to defund the police — after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020 — now want to defund the FBI.

Conservatives are furious that two dozen agents of the FBI had the temerity to execute a legitimate search warrant signed by a federal magistrate and raid a private residence at Mar-a-Lago. The agents seized about 20 boxes of top-secret government documents, which The Washington Post reported included highly sensitive material about nuclear weapons.

According to the BBC, some of the papers recovered were marked “TS/SCI,” which means they could cause “exceptionally grave” harm to U.S. national security interests if our enemies got ahold of them.

The FBI is staying on brand. It is supposed to defend the United States against all enemies — foreign and domestic. What if the latter includes a former president who is being investigated for possibly violating the Espionage Act?

After the raid of the home of former President Donald Trump, right-wingers lost their minds but found a new love for due process.

It was suddenly open season on the FBI, and some Republicans even appropriated a battle cry that they had previously mocked.

Last week, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz, tweeted: “Our country is becoming unrecognizable. The FBI, and the Regime they take marching orders from, are the enemy of the American People. They must be stopped. DEFUND THE FBI.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. — who suggests that the FBI may have planted evidence in Trump’s residence — believes that Americans should “defund the corrupt FBI” and hold accountable those who “abuse their positions of power to persecute their political enemies, while ruining our country.”

Greene is part opportunist, part capitalist. Online, she is hawking “Defund the FBI” T-shirts.

Some Republicans want to go well beyond defunding.

Anthony Sabatini, a leading primary candidate in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, also wants to defund the FBI. After the Mar-a-Lago search, he tweeted that Florida should “sever all ties with DOJ immediately” and arrest FBI agents on sight.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans who once raised money by attacking calls to defund the police are out raising money again — this time by demanding that we defund the FBI.

Face it, Congress is one giant telethon. Lawmakers will sing any song you like if it gets you to call “1-800-GULLIBLE” and donate money.

Even so, this is not what one would expect to hear from a party that brands itself as a champion of the “rule of law.”

Apparently, former Vice President Mike Pence has heard enough.

“The Republican Party is the party of law and order,” Pence said this week in New Hampshire. ” Our party stands with the men and women who stand on the thin blue line at the federal and state and local level, and these attacks on the FBI must stop. Calls to defund the FBI are just as wrong as calls to defund the police.”

Good on Pence. Honesty and integrity are tough to find in politics.

Don’t look at the GOP. The rhetorical somersaults by Republicans appear to have sparked threats against FBI agents and an attack on the FBI field office in Cincinnati.

And so, it was no surprise when the Department of Homeland Security last week issued a special bulletin warning that extreme right-wingers may be planning to detonate a dirty bomb outside FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

We need a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to threats against the lives of individuals in law enforcement, and it should matter not one bit which side of the political aisle the threats are coming from.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is crimscribe@icloud.com. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.

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