News of a search warrant executed by the FBI at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida reverberated across the internet and major media outlets on the evening of August 8. Sources said the warrant was issued because Trump retained boxes of classified documents there, but political pundits suggested the real target was documents showing Trump conspired with his underlings to bring about the Capitol Hill riots.
It took no time at all for Trump to issue a statement claiming Mar-a-Lago was “currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents.” Far-right Republican politicians quickly took to social media to denounce the FBI’s actions. Representative Paul Gosar tweeted “We must destroy the FBI. We must save America,” while Marjorie Taylor Greene described the FBI raid as “the rogue behavior of communist countries, NOT the United States of America!!!” and demanded that the FBI be “defunded.” It is hard to ignore the irony of pro-Trump politicians calling for defunding law enforcement when, during the 2020 election cycle, the Trump campaign spent $20 million on ads making that very accusation against Biden.
No one expects progressives to feel sorry for Trump. Viewership for “Season One” of the January 6 Commission hearings, which followed Representatives Liz Cheney and Bernie Thompson as they connected the dots from the violent assaults carried out by Trump supporters to the behind-the-scenes activities of the former president and his loyalists, was in the tens of millions. Whether the Capitol Hill riots are deemed an insurrection and whether Trump is found responsible for leading a conspiracy, a majority agrees that former president Trump played a role in the violent events that day.
But progressives should be careful of buying into the Democrats’ narrative. This dog fight is between center-right Democrats and far-right Republicans and more about political grandstanding than protecting democracy. Consider two years of non-stop anti-Russia commentary from Democrats while Trump was in office and the impact it had and still has on political life in the US. From 2017 to 2019, Democrats used the Mueller investigation and the specter of Russian support for Trump to whip up public support for the FBI, generate hyped-up charges that Russian agents hacked state election websites, and legitimize claims that “political dissent” – especially left criticism of Democrats – came from “troll farms” funded by the Russian government. These charges came straight from Cold War playbooks and led to legitimate left news sources being falsely targeted as “Russian bots” and ejected from social media platforms with little if any pushback from progressives.
The influence of Russia-gate is still powerful and poisonous. Only two weeks ago, the FBI used the “Russian influence” fairytale as an excuse to conduct armed raids on a Black-led socialist organization and its leaders in St. Petersburg, Florida and St. Louis, Missouri. Even though none of the people or organizations named in the warrants were accused of any crimes, these activists did not get the kid glove treatment that Trump received. Two of the leaders of the African Peoples Socialist Party (APSP) were awakened at their St. Louis home by flash-bang grenades, forced from their homes, handcuffed, and made to sit on the curb while agents raided their home and removed files, computer equipment, and cell phones. One of the Florida raids was directed at a Black activist based on his having run for city council in St. Petersburg and winning 18% of the vote. All were alleged to be “unindicted co-conspirators” with a Russian agent who “spread pro-Russia propaganda and interfere with local elections.” In other words, the leaders of the African Peoples Socialist Party were attacked by the FBI not because of the things they did but because of the things they said.
The FBI was created to target political dissidents and immigrants, and it has infiltrated and destabilized left organizations for the last century. It is responsible for the incarceration of activists like Leonard Peltier, a founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who has been jailed since 1977, and the assassination of leaders of the Black Panther Party like Fred Hampton. It was the FBI that spied on mosques and pressured Muslims to serve as informants under threat of deportation. The FBI killed leaders of the Puerto Rican independence movement and framed young environmental activists as “eco-terrorists.”
As the discussion about the right-wing reaction to the Mar-a-Lago raid continues, shed no tears for Donald Trump and let yourself have a good laugh at Marjorie Taylor Greene, “the Q-Anon Queen.” But keep in mind that “defunding the police” is not a joke; it has always been about making communities safer by de-militarizing the police and funding mental health services. And remember: the FBI is no friend to working people in this country.