Scores of Republicans have sought to discredit the integrity of federal agencies that have investigated and charged Donald Trump, marking another step away from the GOP’s longtime positioning as the party of law enforcement. Trump and many of his presidential rivals have argued without evidence that the Justice Department has unfairly targeted the former president, even as some of those candidates also asserted that the charges he faces should be taken seriously.
Republicans on Capitol Hill and beyond have aimed to portray the Justice Department, particularly the FBI, as politically motivated actors, echoing Trump’s claim of the government being weaponized against him under President Biden, reports the Washington Post.
At a rally Monday night in West Palm Beach, Fla., Kari Lake, a Trump ally who lost the Arizona governor’s race last fall, said: “They can’t arrest all of us, they can’t indict all of us, they can’t stop all of us, we are so powerful together.”
Some Democrats have criticized Republicans for portraying themselves as the party of law and order as they call out left-wing protesters as threats to public safety. The Republican response reflects a larger turn the party has taken during the Trump era, as the former president has repeatedly castigated institutions that were once more revered in GOP circles.
The Republican Party has billed itself as the party of law and order for decades, dating back to Richard M. Nixon’s 1968 campaign when he coined that phrase to win over voters after a tumultuous period of antiwar demonstrations, riots and the assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
In many elections, GOP leaders touted their tough-on-crime policies, including Trump, who echoed Nixon’s phrase throughout the 2018 midterms and the 2020 election when he argued that voters would be choosing between “law and order on one side” and “chaos on the other.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) called it “really damaging” for Republicans to “create a narrative out of thin air that Joe Biden is pulling the strings of prosecutors,” and that the GOP has “largely given up on being the party of law and order.”
The efforts to undermine the credibility of the justice system continued Monday on Capitol Hill, where House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters that “the idea of equal justice is not playing out here.”
“The Republican Party is the party of law and order, but it should be law and order for everybody, and it seems like they’re going after only certain people,” said Carol Vyhonsky of Brevard County, Fla., who attended Lake’s event.
Pew Research Center polling suggests that the GOP attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department have had an effect. Only 38 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning adults said they viewed the FBI favorably in a survey released in March; and pnly 40 percent of respondents viewed the main Justice Department favorably.