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Rooting for Civil War

Executing a valid search warrant, FBI agents arrived in the morning to search the office. The word “unprecedented” was on everyone’s lips. They seized business records, computers and other documents related to possible crimes. An enraged Donald Trump denounced the FBI and the Justice Department, saying not that they had abided by the warrant issued by a federal judge, but rather that agents had “broken into” the office.

The year was 2018, and Trump was livid about the FBI’s investigation into his longtime attorney/fixer, Michael Cohen.

At the time, many observers, including me, assumed that the investigation would yield bushels of incriminating documents about Trump. Cohen was his personal lawyer, after all, the guy who wrote the hush-money checks to porn stars and presumably had access to many of Trump’s dodgy or downright illegal acts. It didn’t turn out that way.

But what is not open to doubt is that the Republican Party, which seemed to be flirting with post-Trumpism just a few weeks ago, has now come roaring back as an authoritarian cult. Trump has not changed. But he has changed Republicans.

Consider 2018 again. When the FBI searched Cohen’s office, Trump was Trump. He raged like a banshee. He declared that it was “an attack on our country” and a “disgraceful situation.”

Some Fox News bobbleheads treated the story as more evidence of a conspiracy to hurt the Dear Leader, but most Republicans were subdued. The prevailing tone in Republican ranks was that the investigations, including Robert Mueller’s, must be permitted to proceed according to the rules. Sens. Thom Tillis and Lindsey Graham, for example, teamed up with their Democratic colleagues, Sens. Chris Coons and Cory Booker, to propose the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act.

Four years later, the FBI has executed another warrant, this time to Trump’s office, and the Trump forces have gone berserk. Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted, “I will support a complete dismantling and elimination of the democrat brown shirts known as the FBI. This is too much for our republic to withstand … “

Anthony Sabatini, a Florida state representative and candidate for Congress, was prepared to dismantle the whole federalist structure: “It’s time for us in the Florida Legislature to … sever all ties with DOJ immediately. Any FBI agent conducting law enforcement functions outside the purview of our State should be arrested upon sight.” That would go well.

Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted that “At a minimum, Garland must resign or be impeached. The search warrant must be published. (FBI Director) Christoper Wray must be removed. And the FBI reformed top to bottom.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene chants, “Defund the FBI.”

Newt Gingrich suggests that the feds might have planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago.

The party that backed the blue and disdained the defund-the-police crowd now flips. Gingrich is channeling Johnnie Cochran. Trump may be an ignoramus and a clod, but he has the capacity to turn people inside out.

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