In the week since the FBI executed a search warrant on former President Donald Trump’s home, many of his supporters have continued to grow angrier, prompting a surge in threats against federal agents including an attempted attack on the FBI field office in Cincinnati that left the attacker dead.
Trump returned to his playbook from Jan. 6 2021 on Monday, seemingly to calm supporters but actually feeding them anger.
Trump told Fox News Digital in an interview on Monday that “the country is in a very dangerous position.” He said, “Whatever we can do to help — because the temperature has to be brought down in the country. If it isn’t, terrible things are going to happen.”
He then added: “The people of this country are not going to stand for another scam.”
Trump’s public offer of an olive branch, while continuing to stoke the rage of his supporters, echoed his handling of the mob that attacked the Capitol as Congress met to certify Joe Biden’s victory over him in the 2020 election. Ahead of that deadly riot, Trump’s statements helped whip up his supporters to action, according to evidence the Jan. 6 committee presented during dramatic hearings this summer.
Trump turned down multiple requests from his inner circle not to stop the violence. His supporters then marched towards the Capitol, engaging in hand to hand combat with police officers. Trump finally issued a tweet in which both urged and supported the mob to abandon their positions.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” Trump wrote on Twitter at 6:01 pm that day. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Continue reading:Trump’s Secret Knowledge: What the Jan. 6 Committee Did Not Know About a Former President
Trump has strongly suggested that his Mar-a-Lago Club search on August 8, to find classified documents, was motivated by politics. “It’s important that you know that it wasn’t just my home that was violated – it was the home of every patriotic American,” he wrote in one fundraising email to supporters. Another fundraising request was the sometimes apocalyptic language that the ex-President and his associates used, with a focus now on the FBI search. “These are dark times for our Nation,” read the subject line of an email sent to supporters on Aug. 10 in Trump’s name from his Save America PAC. “I need every single red-blooded American Patriot to step up during this time.”
Trump is “trying to parse the language and create plausible deniability,” says David Gomez, a former FBI assistant special agent in charge in the FBI Seattle field office who spent 28 years investigating national security cases including domestic extremism. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what he’s doing, that he’s trying to get people to do what they did on [Jan. 6],” adds Gomez. “He’s trying to rouse people up to take his side without overtly saying ‘Let’s do x, y, and z.’”
Trump supporters have begun to dissect his statements via popular pro Trump forums and far right channels. Many of Trump’s supporters made clear that they were still waiting to receive the signal from the FBI in the days following the search. This was in contrast with the messages he sent through his incendiary statements prior to the attack at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“When Trump says at a rally or other highly public venue: ‘now is the time’, it will be time. Not before then,” one supporter posted on Aug. 9, a day after the FBI search, on a forum that previously served as the staging ground for the Jan. 6 attack. The language mirrored similar calls on the same forum 19 months earlier: “We have been waiting for Trump to say the word,” one user posted in December 2020 in response to Trump’s call to supporters to come to Washington. “There is not enough cops in DC to stop what is coming.”
Continue reading: Analysts Warn Violent Rhetoric After FBI Mar-a-Lago Search Is a Preview of What’s to Come
A man posting regularly on Truth Social, just three days after Mar-a-Lago was searched by the FBI, was shot and killed last Thursday after he attacked an FBI Cincinnati field office with an AR-15-style gun and a nailgun. An account with the same name as the attacker had posted more than 374 times in the previous eight days, many of the messages calling for action after the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago and repeating Trump’s false claims of fraud in the 2020 election. In April, the account had posted a message to Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr: “I’m just waiting for your Dad.”
On the day that FBI agents searched Trump’s residence, the attacker posted, “People, this is it…This is your call to arms from me. Leave work tomorrow as soon as the gun shop…opens, get whatever you need to be ready for combat.” The following day he called it a “damn straight insurrection against the people who usurped our government…I won’t be unarmed this time.” Trump Media & Technology Group, the parent company of Truth Social, did not respond to TIME’s request for comment.
TIME was told by former national security officers and experts in political violence that these attacks will escalate as Trump is facing a series of ongoing investigations. This, while also fueling speculation about his 2024 run for the presidency.
A man from Pennsylvania was accused of posting threats on Gab against the FBI, according to prosecutors. The threat occurred in the aftermath of Mar-a-Lago’s execution. “I sincerely believe that if you work for the FBI, then you deserve to die,” prosecutors allege the man wrote. “I am going to f**cking slaughter you.”
Trump has described the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago as a “break in” and implied repeatedly, without evidence, that the FBI may have planted incriminating material during the search. In the interview on Monday, he was even more explicit about it, saying that the FBI “could have planted anything they wanted” during the search.
Posts from supporters make it clear they’re taking such messages to heart. “They aren’t after me, they’re after you,” one supporter on a rightwing Trump forum wrote as a summary of the former President’s posts. “If the FBI continues to act in such a partisan way, we will be next.”
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