For the record:
4:14 p.m. Aug. 17, 2022: An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly said the FBI indicted former California congressman TJ Cox. The FBI arrested the former congressman.
After agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation searched former President Trump’s Florida residence at Mar-a-Lago last week, seizing several boxes containing classified documents, some conservatives launched a flood of apoplectic responses.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) tweeted: “Impeach [U.S. Atty. Gen.] Merrick Garland, gut the DOJ, defund the corrupt FBI, and Impeach Biden.” Fox News' Tucker Carlson said during one of his shows that "no honest person believes the raid on Donald Trump’s home last week was a legitimate act of law enforcement." His Fox News colleague Jesse Watters said the FBI "probably" planted evidence, an idea echoed by others, including former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Some GOP members, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, were more restrained with their criticism. The senator from South Carolina, who once said Trump was "a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot" and "not fit to be president of the United States," suggested the search was a political witch hunt. GOP governors including Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Ron DeSantis of Florida denounced the investigation.
And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the Californian who may well become House speaker next year (heaven help us), tweeted out a statement that said, in part, the Justice Department "has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization" and warned Garland to "preserve your documents and clear your calendar."
If this reactionary rhetoric was intended to cast doubt on the FBI in general and the righteousness of the search, it was a success. But it did more than that. FBI Director Christopher A. Wray (a Trump appointee, by the way) reported it was stoking online threats toward federal law enforcement officers. A few days after the Mar-a-Lago search, a man armed with an AR-15 and a nail gun tried to get through a barrier at the FBI building in Cincinnati. In social media posts he allegedly cited the search when he called for violence against the FBI.
But a funny thing happened after the FBI arrested former California congressman TJ Cox on multiple counts of fraud and money laundering this week. Crickets. Those same conservatives and so-called "patriots" so incensed about federal authorities investigating one of their own had nothing to say about the arrest of the Democrat from Fresno.
Cox is charged with siphoning at least $1.7 million from companies he owned and using some of the money to fund illegal straw donations to his 2018 congressional campaign.
To be clear, the FBI does have a checkered history of politically motivated investigations and unwarranted spying on Americans. But what this selective outrage indicates is that the GOP is less interested in legitimate debate about the law enforcement agency than it is about undermining the case the federal government is building against its standard bearer.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.