Defund… the F.B.I.?

Christopher Wray
F.B.I. director Christopher Wray. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP
Julia Ioffe
August 9, 2022

It’s amazing that we didn’t find out about the daylong F.B.I. raid on Mar-a-Lago until after it ended, and even more amazing that news of it didn’t leak until Donald Trump himself unofficially announced it in a deeply whiny press release. (“They even broke into my safe!”) The news blew up the news cycle in a way that only Trump news can, a throwback to the bad old days of the man’s presidency. In many ways, it brought some extremely expected reactions from different corners of the political spectrum: liberals gloated and right-wingers cried foul. Democrats held up the raid as justice delayed but delivered; Republicans pointed to it as still more evidence of a tyrannical “Regime” bent on destroying them and any dissenters. 

But it did produce one deeply unexpected wrinkle in the political universe. Two years after Republicans made quick work of tying even the most moderate Democrats to their more progressive colleagues who called to “defund the police,” attempting to sink them in the 2020 elections, Republicans took to social media last night to loudly call for defunding, well, federal law enforcement. 

Marjorie Taylor Greene, who by now needs no introduction, led the charge by declaring, simply, “DEFUND THE F.B.I.!” Others quickly followed. Erick Erickson, the conservative commentator who went from Never Trump to Always Trump, tweeted that, even as he struggles to form an opinion about what happened, he can already say that the F.B.I. should “be in line for defunding right behind the I.R.S.” The white nationalist House Republican Paul Gosar went so far as to call the F.B.I. “brown shirts” and to demand their “dismantling and elimination.” A Republican state representative from Florida who is running for Congress, Anthony Sabatini, said local Florida law enforcement should arrest F.B.I. agents on sight and that “it’s time to completely gut the F.B.I. and D.O.J.” Russ Vought, a conservative think tanker, went on Fox News, to preach the same gospel: defund the F.B.I. In a matter of hours, the idea had spread like wildfire.