Asked about the House GOP’s relationship with the FBI, Rep. Matt Gaetz — the pro-Trump Florida conservative who apparently will avoid charges in a federal sex trafficking probe — summed it up in two words: “It’s complicated.” Gaetz’s House colleagues acknowledge that they don’t plan to make good on conservatives’ pro-Trump calls to “defund the FBI” after its Mar-a-Lago search. Some, however, are planning to make the agency’s life as difficult as possible next year if they win back the majority, Politico reports. GOP lawmakers are preparing a buffet of investigations aimed at touching every aspect of the agency’s decision-making, even considering a select committee to probe how the bureau handled the recovery of classified documents kept at Donald Trump’s Florida estate. That’s on top of talk of likely doomed-to-fail efforts by conservatives to curb the FBI’s reach and funding while other fights, like renewing the bureau’s surveillance permissions, wait in the wings.
The one-sided feud is the latest sign of decay in a long-fraught relationship between the FBI and congressional Republicans, despite their claimed mantle of backing law enforcement and efforts to paint Democrats as anti-police. Trump and his allies have spent years using the FBI and the parent Justice Department as go-to villains, with the August search of Mar-a-Lago and subsequent leaks only deepening distrust of the bureau among conservative lawmakers and their base voters. Even so, the calls to “defund the FBI” still go too far for many House Republicans. “Do I think we’re going to defund the FBI? No. Do I think that’s smart? No. If you’ve got concerns about the directions of the FBI, that’s what oversight hearings are for,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). Democrats are already eager to turn the anti-police moniker on their adversaries. Moderates on their side of the aisle have vented for years about getting stuck with the “defund the police” label, which some thought were to blame for the party’s unexpected 2020 losses.