Unions, Employee Groups and Lawmakers Condemn Threats of Violence Against Feds
The FBI’s search of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago has spurred anti-government sentiment on online forums.
As threats of violence against federal agents have increased over the past week following the FBI’s search of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club and residence, more voices have joined the chorus of condemning such rhetoric.
On Aug. 8, FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago, which has led to an onslaught of criticism, including from Trump and Republican lawmakers, as well as threats against federal law enforcement personnel. Then on Aug. 12, the Homeland Security Department and FBI issued a joint intelligence bulletin warning of an increase in threats, mainly online, to federal law enforcement officers following the search, several news outlets have reported.
“Threats of violence, intimidation, and physical attacks against law enforcement and government officials have no place in civil society,” Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement on Monday. “To preserve the rule of law and protect the safety of the 700,000 government workers we represent, political leaders must tone down their overheated rhetoric and allow federal law enforcement officials to perform their jobs free from political interference.”
Ken Thomas, national president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, noted that “FBI agents are public servants that serve across presidential administrations” whose “work saves American lives every day.”
“It is tragic that the lives of FBI agents across the country should be put at greater risk than they already are in response to a lawful search pursuant to a court-approved warrant,” Thomas said.
On Monday, Chad Hooper, executive director of the Professional Managers Association, which represents professional managers, management officials and non-bargaining unit employees in the federal government and within the IRS, said the association “expresses our extreme disgust with the current violent threats against FBI agents and federal law enforcement.”
“The greater trend towards violence towards the federal workforce and the acceptance of violence as an acceptable feature of our political system ignores the reality of how democracy is supposed to work,” Hooper said. “Politicians attacking individual federal employees or classes of federal employees only further entrench misconceptions about how our political system works and emboldens these attacks.” He noted this is playing out right now as politicians are attacking the plans to hire 87,000 Internal Revenue Service agents under the Inflation Reduction Act. (The Biden administration has pushed back on claims that this will double the size of the IRS).
As for lawmakers, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairperson of the House Homeland Security Committee, on Monday condemned the recent acts of violence and threats against federal law enforcement officials and others in government, which have mainly come from “right-wing extremists online.” The threats are “frighteningly similar to those we saw in the run-up to the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.”
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who faces a tough primary on Tuesday as she has become a prominent Trump critic and is vice chairperson of the House committee investigating the Capitol attack, tweeted on Aug. 11: “I have been ashamed to hear members of my party attacking the integrity of the FBI agents involved with the recent Mar-a-Lago search. These are sickening comments that put the lives of patriotic public servants at risk.”
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who is a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, is one of many Republicans calling for more transparency into the search, particularly with the affidavit to support the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago.
“I've urged all my colleagues to make sure they understand the weight of their words and [understand] what we don't know yet,” Fitzpatrick said on “Face the Nation” this past Sunday. He added that “in my few short years in Congress, I've seen an undermining of all three branches of government lead to threats of violence and acts of violence starting with the attack on my fellow baseball team members on the baseball field, to threats to Supreme Court justices, to threats to law enforcement, both local and during the unrest in the summer of 2020.”
When asked if Trump should be included among those watching their words, he said, “Right. Correct. I think everybody needs to be calling for calm,” noting he is “very concerned” for law enforcement officers’ safety.
Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray both condemned threats against federal personnel last week as did the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and FBI Agents Association.
Amid the divisive and threatening rhetoric, some threats have seemingly materialized.
Last Thursday, an armed man who attempted to breach the FBI building in Cincinnati was shot and killed after a standoff with police. He apparently threatened federal agents on social media after the Mar-a-Lago search and is believed to have been at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to the Associated Press.
Then on Monday, the Justice Department announced that a Pennsylvania man was arrested on charges last Friday for making threats against FBI personnel after the Mar-a-Lago search.
Adam Bies allegedly wrote on a far-right social media platform that his “only goal is to kill more of them before I drop” and “If You Work For The FBI Then You Deserve To Die.” He also allegedly wrote, “HEY FEDS. We the people cannot WAIT to water the trees of liberty with your blood. I’ll be waiting for you to kick down my door.”’
Bies’ detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, according to court documents. Government Executive reached out to Sarah Levin, the federal public defender representing Bies, but she did not immediately respond for comment.