Trump’s communications are ‘erratic and unmoored from truth,’ says former Georgia Lt. Gov

Former Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) said Monday that former President Trump and his legal team’s recent communications are “erratic” and “unmoored from truth.”

Duncan made the comments when discussing the former president's continuing legal challenges during an appearance on CNN’s “The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer.”

They were in response to Blitzer mentioning that Trump’s legal team argued on Monday that the former president should not be the subject of a protective order to limit what he can say in his Jan 6. criminal case. 

“Well, I think everything's on the table for that team, right? Everything. He's very unpredictable,” Duncan told Blitzer. “We've seen this play out, even the communications that we've seen in the last 48 to 72 hours that he has put out on social media just seem erratic and unmoored from truth.”

Judge Tanya Chutkan recently ordered Trump’s attorneys to respond to Special Counsel Jack Smith's request for a strict protective order by Monday, which would prevent Trump from discussing case evidence in public.

Duncan, who served as lieutenant governor of Georgia from 2019 to 2023, also told Blitzer that Trump’s recent social media posts and remarks on his legal challenges remind him of Trump's lead up to the Capitol attack on Jan. 6. 

“It's very concerning,” Duncan added. “And unfortunately, there's similar hallmarks I'm watching play out in the last few days, that really bring me back to a terrible place and that was the lead up to January 6, where it's just a continued deluge of misinformation, and a feverish pitch through 10-second sound bites and short little social media posts.”

Trump was indicted last Tuesday by a Washington, D.C., grand jury on four charges stemming from his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to President Biden.

Smith’s 45-page indictment accuses Trump of trying to conduct a campaign to block the transfer of power. It alleges Trump was the director of a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and played a central role in an attempt to block the certification of votes on Jan. 6.

Duncan also said that he received a subpoena to testify before a grand jury investigating the efforts Trump and his allies made to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia.

Trump legal team singles out Biden’s ‘Dark Brandon’ post as capitalizing on indictment

Former President Donald Trump’s attorneys singled out a meme post from President Biden on social media in a court filing Monday arguing against the scope of a proposed protective order.

Trump’s attorneys made the filing in Washington, D.C., in the Justice Department’s case against the former president for his attempts to subvert the 2020 election results.

Prosecutors had asked for a protective order to limit how widely evidence could be shared in the wake of a social media post by Trump vowing to go after anyone who targeted him.

In response, Trump’s attorneys argued in part that the former president’s political opponents have campaigned on the indictment at a time when Trump is running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

“President Biden has likewise capitalized on the indictment, posting a thinly veiled reference to his administration’s prosecution of President Trump just hours before arraignment,” his attorneys wrote.

The filing then includes a photo of a post on Biden's personal account on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, in which he wrote: “A cup of Joe never tasted better,” with a link to a mug with the "Dark Brandon” image of Biden with lasers shooting out of his eyes.

The tweet includes a short video clip of Biden sipping from the mug and saying he likes his coffee “dark.” It was posted at 11:18 a.m. Thursday. Trump’s court appearance took place roughly five hours later.

The “Dark Brandon” meme is a viral image and a winking nod to a more devious alter ego for the 80-year-old president. It stems from White House allies co-opting a taunt in which conservatives would chant “Let’s Go Brandon” as a coded message for “F--- Joe Biden.”

Biden's campaign sells merchandise with the image printed on coffee mugs and T-shirts, and Biden made a joking reference to the meme at the White House Correspondents Dinner this year.

Biden has yet to publicly comment on Trump’s indictment in Washington, and both the president and White House aides have remained adamant that they have had no discussion with Justice Department officials about the cases against Trump.

Still, Trump has relentlessly claimed that the charges against him are a case of election interference intended to harm his White House bid.

Trump is leading the Republican primary race by a wide margin, according to polls, but polling of a hypothetical rematch between Trump and Biden in 2024 shows a close race. A New York Times/Siena College poll published last week found a hypothetical match-up between the two to be deadlocked at 43-43 percent.

Grand jury convenes in Trump case: Here’s how grand juries work

A federal grand jury has been meeting to decide whether to bring charges against former President Trump in connection with the transfer of power following the 2020 election and the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

But what is a grand jury?

Before unveiling felony charges in federal court, prosecutors must present evidence to grand jurors and receive their signoff.

Federal grand juries comprise between 16 to 23 people, and at least 16 must be present for a quorum. In this instance, the jurors are all residents of Washington, D.C. They have been meeting behind closed doors in a courthouse just blocks from the Capitol and White House.

Prosecutors have brought in numerous witnesses from Trump’s orbit to testify.

Ultimately, the proceedings wrap up with the grand jury taking a vote on prosecutors’ proposed indictment. 

Recent signs suggest the indictment vote could be close. Trump has said he received a target letter from the Justice Department more than two weeks ago that gave him the opportunity to testify before the grand jury, a step that usually occurs when prosecutors are nearing a final charging decision.

At least 12 jurors must vote in favor of the indictment for it to be returned, known as a “true bill.”

Grand jurors are asked to decide whether there is probable cause to believe the person in question committed a crime. It’s a much lower standard than prosecutors would need to prove at trial: proof beyond a reasonable doubt. 

What charges prosecutors are considering remain unclear. If the grand jury votes to return the indictment, in D.C. it is generally received by the duty magistrate judge and placed under seal.  On Tuesday, Judge Moxila Upadhyaya is scheduled as the duty magistrate. A different judge would oversee the trial.

In the classified documents case filed in Florida, prosecutors moved to unseal the charges ahead of Trump’s first court appearance. It remains unclear when the charges would be unsealed in the Jan. 6 case.

Names of George Santos bond sponsors released

Rep. George Santos’s (R-N.Y.) father and aunt financially backed his criminal bail, according to newly unsealed court documents.

The release of their names — father Gercino dos Santos and aunt Elma Preven — on Thursday is the latest iteration of a months-long saga surrounding Santos, the federally indicted first-term lawmaker who has come under intense scrutiny amid questions about his finances and background.

The congressman attempted to keep their identities private, citing fears of harassment as he unsuccessfully pushed back twice on media companies’ requests to unseal the names.

“As the News Organizations aptly note, family members frequently serve as suretors for criminal defendants in this country every day,” U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert, appointed by former President Clinton, wrote in a newly unsealed ruling handed down earlier this week.

"Consequently, it is more likely that disclosure of the Suretors’ identities will render any potential ‘story’ a ‘non-story,’ especially considering the News Organizations’ acknowledgement of this fact,” she added. “Indeed, it appears Defendant’s continued attempts to shield the identity of his Suretors, notwithstanding the fact that he is aware their identities are not controversial, has simply created hysteria over what is, in actuality, a nonissue."

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Joe Murray, Santos’s lawyer, previously suggested Santos would rather have them withdraw and the lawmaker go to jail, rather than let their names become public, citing a “media frenzy.”

The judge, however, rejected that notion when ordering the names unsealed.

"Defendant did nothing to diffuse the ‘media frenzy’ when leaving the courthouse, instead choosing to address the numerous reporters awaiting his departure,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne Shields wrote.

Thursday’s order also revealed that five days after Shields presided over Santos’s arraignment, she held a bond hearing behind closed doors. Santos’s aunt and father were present, but the congressman did not attend, according to court documents.

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.)

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) celebrates the first ever Congressional Sneaker Day created by the Congressional Sneaker Caucus at the Capitol on Wednesday, June 21, 2023.

The filings indicate Santos’s father and aunt both “remained comfortable” at the hearing about their roles, even following days of media attention on the case.

Shields noted they didn’t secure the bond with cash or property, but were “deemed able to provide the necessary moral suasion” and are personally responsible for Santos’s compliance.

Santos last month was indicted on 13 federal charges that accuse him of misleading campaign donors, fraudulently receiving unemployment benefits and lying on financial disclosures. He pleaded not guilty.

But he has been the subject of controversy since before he was sworn into office after a bombshell report outlined questionable aspects of his resume in December. The criticism ballooned when more inquiries about his finances emerged and hit a fever pitch last month when he was indicted.

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Also last month, A House Democrat moved to force a vote on expelling Santos but the chamber ultimately voted to send the resolution to the Ethics Committee, which was already investigating the congressman.

The unsealing of the names of people who sponsored Santos’s bond — which Santos fought — could have implications for that inquiry.

The Ethics panel launched its probe into Santos in March to look into various areas, but in recent weeks the committee asked for information about his bond suretors.

In a May 13 letter from the panel to Santos — which was first revealed in a court filing this month — the committee asked the congressman to identify the individuals who co-signed his bond, inform the committee of any payments made on his behalf to the co-signers as compensation, lay out any exceptions to House rules that the congressman believes applies to the bond guarantors and provide all documents related to the bond, including communications with the co-signers.

Santos did not immediately comply with the request: Roughly two weeks later, his attorney, Joseph Murray, asked that his client receive a 30-day extension to respond to the panel’s request while also noting he could not share the requested information with the committee until it was unsealed by the court.

“Please understand that unless or until such time that the Court unseals the identities of the suretors, the surety records, and proceedings, I cannot share that information with this Honorable House Ethics Committee,” Murray told the committee in a May 31 letter first revealed in a filing this month.

“If the Court decides to unseal the identities of the sureties, the surety records and proceedings, I will share that information with the Committee. If, however, the Court upholds the sealing, I will also share that Order with this Committee,” he added.

Updated at 1:31 p.m.

Clarence Thomas’s problems multiply at Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is facing a fresh round of scrutiny after the third blockbuster report in less than a month links him financially to GOP megadonor Harlan Crow.

ProPublica reported Thursday that Crow, a Dallas-based real estate developer, paid thousands of dollars in tuition to a private boarding school for Thomas’s great-nephew, whom Thomas has said he raised “as a son.”

Federal ethics laws require the justices to report gifts given to a “dependent child,” but that term is defined to only include the justices’ children or stepchildren. Thomas’s allies have insisted the payment doesn’t violate the disclosure law since it was for Thomas’s sister’s grandson.

But the revelation has only added to the increasing pressure from Democrats for the justices to adopt a binding code of ethics.

“Today’s report continues a steady stream of revelations calling Justices’ ethics standards and practices into question. I hope that the Chief Justice understands that something must be done—the reputation and credibility of the Court is at stake,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a statement.

When asked during a SiriusXM interview about impeaching Thomas, however, Durbin said “no.” He noted that only one justice, Samuel Chase, had been impeached previously, and Chase was acquitted in the Senate in 1805.

“I don't think an impeachment is in the works, particularly with the House in a political situation that it’s in today,” Durbin said on “The Briefing with Steve Scully.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a Judiciary Committee member, argued the matter should be referred to the Department of Justice.

“There’s a potential criminal violation in the misreporting or failure to report certain benefits, gifts and financial transactions. There’s just a drip, drip, drip of additional information that is gravely undermining the Court, but also creating the need for a full factual investigation,” Blumenthal said.

“If [the Justice Department] fails to do so, Congress definitely has a role,” he added.

Thomas did not return a request for comment through a court spokesperson.

Later on Thursday, The Washington Post reported that Leonard Leo, a conservative judicial activist who played a key role in the Supreme Court’s rightward shift, directed tens of thousands of dollars be paid to Thomas’s wife, Ginni, roughly a decade ago.

Leo requested that she not be named in the paperwork, according to the Post. Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist herself, has long insisted that she doesn't talk about the court’s business with her husband.

Judiciary Committee Democrats have been hamstrung on taking action regarding the court, including on a potential subpoena for Chief Justice John Roberts. He declined an invitation from Durbin to appear at a Tuesday hearing on Supreme Court ethics, noting that it is “exceedingly rare” for a chief justice to give testimony. 

That could change if Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has been absent for months due to shingles, returns and once again gives Democrats an 11-10 majority on the panel — though even then subpoenaing the chief justice of the Supreme Court would be an extraordinary step.

Thursday’s ProPublica report was the latest financial transaction involving Thomas and Crow to come to light. The investigative outlet last month reported Thomas had accepted luxury trips from Crow, including flying on his private jet, without disclosing the travels. 

ProPublica also reported Crow had purchased real estate from Thomas’s mother that Thomas had an interest in.

“The definition of insanity is seeing the same Supreme Court justice violate ethics rules over and over again and expecting him to actually hold himself accountable,” Sarah Lipton-Lubet, president of Take Back the Court Action Fund, said in a statement. “How many more examples of Thomas flouting disclosure rules do our elected leaders need to see before they intervene? Thomas needs to answer for his misconduct. It’s time to subpoena him.”

Republicans, on the other hand, indicated little willingness to wade into the waters related to the justice who has served on the court for 32 years. They say this is an issue for the Supreme Court to deal with and not something that requires congressional oversight. Interfering, they argue, would go against the separation of powers.

“The Supreme Court … writes its own rules and if there is any policing of those rules to be done, I think it ought to be done by them,” Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters. “I assume the members of the Court, who I have a high level of confidence in, will make the right decisions for the justices on the Court and for the people who work at the Supreme Court in the same way as we make the rules for all members of Congress.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who recently indicated that he was dismayed by reports of the ethical issues for Thomas, said the Court needs to make ethics changes.

“These revelations with regards to a number of justices, both those appointed by Republicans and by Democrats, suggest that the Court itself needs to evaluate what their disclosure rules are and ethics rules are and methods for enforcing those,” Romney said. “I presume that the chief justice will undertake that.”

Republicans have further portrayed the Thomas scrutiny as a double standard, taking aim at the ethics of the high court’s liberal justices.

They note that liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg accepted an award in 2010 from the Woman's National Democratic Club. 

They have also pointed to liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor not recusing herself when the court considered taking up two cases involving book publisher Penguin Random House, despite disclosing payments from the conglomerate for her books. Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, who also received payments from the publisher for his book, similarly did not recuse.

McConnell defends Supreme Court after Clarence Thomas revelations

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Tuesday defended the Supreme Court from Democrats’ calls to pass judicial ethics legislation or even conduct an impeachment inquiry after reports that Justice Clarence Thomas received gifts and hospitality from a billionaire.  

“The Supreme Court and the court system is a whole separate part of our Constitution, and the Democrats, it seems to me, spend a lot of time criticizing individual members of the court and going after the court as an institution,” McConnell told reporters at his first leadership press conference in the Capitol since suffering a concussion on March 8.  

McConnell accused Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) of threatening conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh at an abortion rights rally outside the Supreme Court in 2020, when the Democratic leader warned they “won’t know what hit” them if they overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case.  

“My counterpart went over in front of the Supreme Court and called out two of the Supreme Court justices by name and actually threatened them with some kind of reprisal — I don’t know what kind — if they ruled the wrong way in a case he cared about,” he said.  

McConnell also asserted that Attorney General Merrick Garland “seemed to be largely unconcerned with security issues around the homes of Supreme Court members” after a draft opinion of the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe, leaked in May.  

The GOP leader said he has “total confidence” in Chief Justice John Roberts to handle any ethical issues facing the court.  

“I have total confidence in the chief justice of the United States to deal with these court internal issues,” he said.  

His comments came in reaction to a recent letter Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent to Roberts raising concerns about reporting by ProPublica that Thomas accepted luxury trips regularly from Texas billionaire Harlan Crow without disclosing the gifts.

ProPublica also reported that one of Crow’s companies bought a property in which Thomas owned a one-third share, which Thomas also failed to disclose.  

Senate Democrats informed Roberts that they will hold a hearing on “the need to restore confidence in the Supreme Court’s ethical standards” and urged the chief justice to investigate the matter.  

“And if the court does not resolve these issues on its own, the committee will consider legislation to resolve it,” they wrote. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in a CNN interview over the weekend suggested the House should conduct an impeachment inquiry into Thomas, telling CNN’s Dana Bash it is “the House’s responsibility to pursue that investigation in the form of impeachment.”  

Democrats race to Bragg’s defense: Congress ‘should stay the hell out of it’

House Democrats are racing to the defense of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) amid his criminal probe of former President Trump, saying the Republicans seeking to halt Bragg’s hush money investigation are encroaching on matters of independent law enforcement and should simply butt out.

“Let's wait to see if there are going to be charges. Let's see what the charges are. Let's see what the evidence is,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (Calif.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “And we should let law enforcement do their jobs without political interference."

Trump stirred a hornet’s nest over the weekend when he predicted he would be indicted this week for his role in a 2016 payment to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels. The prediction proved false — the grand jury in the case is expected to meet again next week — but the very idea drew howls from Trump’s GOP allies on Capitol Hill, where the chairmen of three powerful House committees demanded that Bragg testify before Congress.

“Your actions will erode confidence in the evenhanded application of justice and unalterably interfere in the course of the 2024 presidential election,” Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), James Comer (R-Ky.) and Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) wrote to Bragg on Monday. Jordan chairs the Judiciary Committee; Comer leads the Oversight panel, and Steil heads the Administration Committee.

Bragg responded to the Republicans on Thursday, writing that Trump had created a “false expectation” in predicting his arrest this week. He declined the GOP entreaties to provide information, and Democrats are backing him, accusing Republicans of strong-arming judiciary officials and defending Trump over the rule of law.

"I was astonished, actually, when I saw the letter from the three committee chairs to Mr. Bragg, essentially calling on him to violate grand jury secrecy laws in New York, which of course is a felony,” Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters on Thursday. “He rightly declined to do that.” 

Yet Republicans are not the only figures criticizing Bragg this week. Some liberals are voicing concerns that the Manhattan district attorney is moving too quickly in the hush money case, fearing his indictment might arrive before federal and state prosecutors investigating several other episodes — including Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and his effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election — bring potentially more serious charges. 

Those liberal voices say an early indictment in Manhattan could benefit Trump politically, by rallying support from Republican voters who might be shifting away from the former president, but remain sympathetic to his warnings of a national "deep state" conspiracy targeting conservatives by all levels of government. They’re suggesting Bragg should back off to let the other investigations proceed first. 

“A charge like this — a porn star payoff seven years ago, somehow tied to the election but not really — it doesn’t seem like the right way to go,” Van Jones, a liberal commentator for CNN, said this week. “History is not going to judge Donald Trump based on Stormy Daniels. They’re going to judge him based on the election, going to judge him based on the coup attempt.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill have other ideas, however, and many wasted no time blasting the calls for Bragg to delay. 

"I always scratch my head when I hear that — as if we have the ability to politically choreograph the sequencing of criminal justice. I mean, give me a break,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said. 

“The process and the law should just play out, and we should stay the hell out of it.” 

A vast majority of Democrats appear to agree. While many acknowledged there might be a political advantage if the Justice Department brought the first charges surrounding the Jan. 6 attack — or Georgia prosecutors were the first to indict Trump for interfering in the 2020 election — they emphasized that those are independent investigations being conducted by separate agencies, and any coordination between them would taint all of the probes.  

“From a political standpoint, it may have an impact on how this is all interpreted and received, and how certain people are able to spin it,” Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) said, referring to the possibility that Bragg may be the first prosecutor to bring charges. “But the central question is the independence of these prosecutors, and their ability to do their jobs. And they have to do their jobs regardless of the political fallout." 

Bragg’s office has sent recent signals that it may soon indict Trump in the scandal that involved Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, paying Daniels $130,000 in return for her silence surrounding an alleged affair with Trump a decade earlier. Trump, who denies the affair, later reimbursed Cohen, who was subsequently convicted of a series of felonies, spent time in prison, and is now the central witness against his former boss. 

But it’s still unknown whether or when the grand jury will see fit to indict Trump, what the charges would be or how challenging the path is to a potential conviction.

Legal observers suggest an indictment of Trump would likely focus on charges of falsifying business records, a misdemeanor. Pursuit of a felony would require showing the falsification was connected to another crime, but those options all carry their own pitfalls

As the debate has evolved, some powerful Democrats — including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who led Trump’s first impeachment — have accused the Justice Department of moving too slowly in its investigations. But others said the sheer scope of the Jan. 6 probe is enough to justify the marathon process.

“The good news is the Department of Justice doesn't care about my perception of their pace,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said, pointing to the independence of the agency.

“When you are conducting an investigation that involves the former president of the United States you want to be sure that you have crossed every T and dotted every I. I think it does feel like it's been a long time, but obviously, they're gonna do what is necessary to fully investigate,” he said.

The hush money case also had a head start compared to the other probes, with the conduct first coming to light in 2018 and under investigation by the Manhattan district attorney's office since May of 2021. Some Democrats said it’s been all but inevitable that the Stormy Daniels scandal would yield the first charges. 

"It's almost predictable that the tawdry and the slimy would get him first. And I hate to say it that way, but that's what I think of him,” Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) told The Hill.

“In many ways, you'd like to see some of the graver violations of law — that I think he's violated — those come first,” he added. “But it's Donald Trump. Of course the circus comes first.”

Mychael Schnell contributed.

Spike in FBI threats unsettles the right

An uptick in threats to the FBI after it executed a search warrant at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is unsettling the political right, with some calling on allies of the former president to tone down their rhetoric.

Barriers have been erected outside the perimeter of the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., while the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reportedly issued a joint bulletin Friday warning about spikes in threats that included a bomb threat at FBI headquarters and calls for “civil war” and “armed rebellion.”

Fox News host Steve Doocy on Monday urged the former president and others to “tamp down the rhetoric against the FBI” in light of the threats, while Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Trump’s language was “inflammatory.”

“I don’t want to put any law enforcement in the bull’s-eye of a potential threat,” McCaul said.

The bulletin issued by DHS and the FBI cited an incident in which a man armed with an AR-15-style rifle allegedly fired a nail gun into an FBI office in Cincinnati last week, according to NBC News. He was fatally shot by police after a chase and standoff, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Trump on Monday in an interview with Fox News did say the temperature on the issue needed to come down, adding that he’d told aides to reach out to the Department of Justice to help.

But in the same interview, Trump directed his wrath at the Justice Department and suggested that his supporters’ anger was justified. Trump said that Americans are “not going to stand for another scam,” said that the FBI can “break into a president’s house” in a “sneak attack” and suggested that the FBI “could have planted anything they wanted” during the search.

In another post on Truth Social, his social media platform, he claimed that his passports had been taken during the search. Passports were not included on a list of items mentioned as part of a warrant released on Friday, though some of the descriptions of what was seized were broad in nature.

The president’s account on the platform his own business launched is one of his most direct ways to reach supporters online now, since he lost access to his Twitter and Facebook accounts after his posts the day of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a former FBI agent, told Margaret Brennan of “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he was concerned about the safety of FBI agents.

“Violence is never the answer to anything,” Fitzpatrick said. “We live in a democracy that's 246 years old, Margaret. That's not long, that's just a few generations, and yet we're the world's only democracy. And the only way that can come unraveled is if we have disrespect for our institutions that lead to Americans turning on Americans and the whole system becomes unraveled. And a lot of that starts with the words we're using.”

“I'm also urging all my colleagues to understand the weight of your words and support law enforcement no matter what,” he added.

Republicans have sought to differentiate between Biden appointees and rank-and-file FBI agents when raising concerns about potential politicization of the department.

“I won't smear the FBI, like the career FBI agents,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said Friday. “But the political appointees running this stuff are very worrisome.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray was appointed by Trump in 2017.

Some Republicans have continued to use incendiary rhetoric to speak to their massive online bases. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), using her official congressional account since her personal Twitter was suspended in January over COVID-19 misinformation, told her 1 million followers Monday that “Republicans must force” the “political persecution” to stop. Greene filed articles of impeachment against Attorney General Merrick Garland last week.

Katherine Keneally, a senior analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), said she is most concerned about the potential for extremist groups to capitalize on this moment to mobilize for future membership. 

“Specifically, any accelerationist groups that are seeing an uptick in people being upset at the FBI, a government agency, works very well for recruitment for an organization that wants to collapse the US government. So I think that's where my concern is, that these even more nefarious groups are going to use this as a catalyst moment for recruitment,” she said. 

According to a report compiled by ISD analysts, social media accounts believed to belong to the alleged Cincinnati gunman, Ricky Shiffer, suggest he was “motivated by a combination of conspiratorial beliefs related to former President Trump and the 2020 election (among others), interest in killing federal law enforcement, and the recent search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago earlier this week.”

ISD researchers found that Shiffer was likely prepping for the attack for at least two days, based on posts from a since-removed Truth Social account believed to belong to him.

The researchers also found posts and photographs placing Shiffer at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, although it is not confirmed if he was present during the insurrection, and posts on the right-wing video site Rumble that show Shiffer encouraging users to “get in touch with the Proud Boys,” a far-right group. 

Keneally said the Ohio incident hasn’t been mentioned widely by other far-right users of online platforms, likely because it wasn’t successful. But researchers are still seeing general calls for violence targeting the FBI. 

Those monitoring the online vitriol, across mainstream platforms and fringe sites that cater to conservative users, warned that the posts from lawmakers and influencers online could incite their followers to take real-world action.

“It certainly plays a role in the radicalization process,” Keneally said.

“While they might not be directly calling for violence, the conspiratorial allegations certainly play a role in how these people are radicalized, and how they go down that path, regardless of whether it's an official stating, ‘kill the FBI,’ that's not what needs to be said to help radicalize. You just accused the FBI of ‘overstepping their boundaries,’ or like ‘taking away your constitutional rights,’ and that's what that's what people are mobilizing around,” Keneally said.