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Election 2022 Government & Politics

Cox calls FBI Mar-a-Lago search ‘police state tactics,’ while Hogan warns of divisions

Former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick), the GOP nominee for governor, joined the chorus of Republicans who condemned the FBI’s execution of a search warrant Monday at Mar-a-Lago, former President Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla., home.

The reaction of the man Cox is hoping to replace, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, was more nuanced.

In a series of Facebook posts late Monday and Tuesday, Cox said “this FBI raid of Trump’s home is nothing short of communist stasi police state tactics.”

And, he vowed, “As governor I will use the 9th and 10th Amendments, the Maryland Constitution and Declaration of Rights, the MSP and Maryland Guard to stand against all rogue actions of this out of control tyrannical Biden administration with fierce tenacity. Our children, families and loved ones and the freedom we cherish and is our birthright as Americans demand we oppose these criminal acts of this current administration.”

Later, in a separate post, Cox urged other Republicans to speak out against the federal government.

“As the newly nominated leading top of the ticket of the Maryland Republican Party I call on every Maryland Republican to make public statements tonight condemning the raid on President Trump’s home,” he wrote. “This is not a time for silence.”

Republicans across the country have fumed ever since Trump released a statement Monday evening about the FBI search of his home. Several have twinned the search at Mar-a-Lago with the Senate vote over the weekend that will enable the IRS to hire thousands of new inspectors — an attempt by the federal government to crack down on tax cheats — and have argued that both moves are signs of an encroaching police state.

“Wray, Biden, Kamala and Garland are using their offices for their own political weaponization against Republicans and our greatest President of the United States who actually did what he said when elected and returned power to the people,” Cox wrote.

The Maryland Democratic Party used Cox’s remarks to remind voters about the GOP nominee’s ties to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, chartering buses from Frederick County to bring Trump supporters to his rally in Washington, D.C., that day and calling then-Vice President Mike Pence “a traitor” in a tweet. Cox is facing Democrat Wes Moore, an author and former nonprofit CEO, in the general election.

“Marylanders want a responsible leader who is focused on the issues that affect local families and communities, but Dan Cox blindly puts loyalty to Donald Trump and his harmful MAGA agenda above all else,” said Maryland Democratic Party spokesperson Ernest Bailey. “Cox’s primary concern is currying favor with a disgraced former president and touring the right-wing radio circuit. He has repeatedly shown that in times of crisis, he will seek to inflame tensions and feed into partisan divisions. That does nothing to solve the problems facing working families and is wrong for Maryland.”

Democrats in Washington, D.C., had little to say Tuesday about the apparent search, though some defended the execution of justice regardless of a person’s political power. The massive publicity about the search competed with Democrats’ celebration as President Biden at the White House signed into law major legislation aimed at improving semiconductor manufacturing.

An administration official said the White House had “no notice of the reported action” and deferred to the Justice Department for any further information.

Trump’s GOP allies questioned the prudence of the search, which the FBI and Department of Justice had not confirmed by Tuesday afternoon. Trump did not release a copy of a search warrant, although he would have been given one when a search began.

“These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” Trump said Monday in his statement.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request seeking comment. But news reports citing people familiar with the search indicated a federal judge would have authorized it in a warrant indicating probable cause that a crime had been committed, and that evidence would be found at the residence.

Hogan, a rare Republican critic of Trump, released a statement Tuesday expressing fear that the FBI raid could further divide the country.

“Even before yesterday’s events at Mar-a-Lago, America was already dangerously divided,” he said. “These are unprecedented circumstances that require unprecedented transparency and accountability from our government institutions. The American people deserve to know all the facts as soon as possible, and I call on the Biden administration to release — at a minimum — the documents authorizing the FBI search.

“If the federal government cannot ultimately provide overwhelming evidence that action was absolutely necessary, then it will only undermine faith in democracy and the rule of law, and further divide Americans.”

Calls for Garland impeachment

Trump and Republican officials aligned with him speculated that the action was an act of political persecution targeting Biden’s rival in the 2020 — and possibly 2024 — election, with some going as far as calling for Attorney General Merrick Garland to be impeached over the matter.

“The raid by Joe Biden’s FBI on the home of a former president who is also Biden’s chief political opponent is an unprecedented assault on democratic norms and the rule of law. Biden has taken our republic into dangerous waters,” U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted.

“At a minimum, Garland must resign or be impeached,” the Missouri Republican added. “The search warrant must be published. [FBI Director Christopher] Wray must be removed. And the FBI reformed top to bottom.”

Hawley has closely associated himself with the former president’s debunked claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him and raised his fist in the air in a sign of solidarity with pro-Trump demonstrators hours before they charged the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

But even U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, a Michigan Republican who voted to impeach the former president in 2021 and lost his primary last week to a Trump-backed challenger, called for answers from the Justice Department.

“Last night’s execution of an FBI search warrant at Mar-a-Lago raises grave questions of propriety and politicization,” Meijer said in a tweet. “Allegations of criminal activity from current/ex-Presidents require FBI & DOJ handling that is beyond reproach. Anything less is dangerous and wrong.”

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California pledged to investigate the investigation if Republicans gain control of the chamber in November’s elections.

“The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization,” McCarthy said. “When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department… Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”

U.S. Sen Rick Scott, a former Florida governor who leads Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, also called for a rigorous investigation and possible impeachment of Garland.

If Garland and Wray did not make public statements explaining the raid Tuesday, they “no longer deserve to remain in office,” he said in a statement.

“When Republicans retake the majority in the Senate, there will be a thorough and aggressive investigation,” he said. “Everything needs to be on the table for AG Garland, including impeachment.”

Pence noted that the search was the first of a former president in U.S. history that fueled concerns about the FBI’s political motivations.

“The appearance of continued partisanship by the Justice Department must be addressed,” Pence tweeted Tuesday. “Yesterday’s action undermines public confidence in our system of justice and Attorney General Garland must give a full accounting to the American people as to why this action was taken and he must do so immediately.”

Multiple investigations

Trump is under investigation by a Georgia grand jury for his possible role in attempting to overturn the election. The House committee investigating Jan. 6 has also focused its investigation on Trump’s conduct, and the panel is reported to be considering a criminal referral to the Justice Department.

But there is no indication the Monday search was part of investigations of Trump’s election-related conduct.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speculated it had to do with records from Trump’s time in office. The U.S. archivist reported in a February 2022 letter that Trump had kept 15 boxes of presidential records — including classified documents — at his Palm Beach residence.

Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in a “Today Show” interview Tuesday morning that she had no advance knowledge of the search and would reserve judgment until DOJ officials said more.

“I’m sure that information will be revealed and when it does, we’ll find out what they were looking for,” she told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie.

“It seems to have something to do with presidential documents, but I really am not in a position to talk about it because all I know is what’s in the public domain.”

Trump should be subject to the same criminal investigation as any other citizen, Pelosi added, and his past office shouldn’t provide him immunity from prosecution.

“We believe in the rule of law,” she said. “No person is above the law.”