As the 2024 presidential election looms, the FBI has decided to classify supporters of former President Donald Trump as potential “domestic extremists,” a Newsweek investigation has found.
Newsweek exclusively reported Wednesday that the FBI’s targeting of Trump supporters “drastically increased under President Joe Biden,” and that “nearly two-thirds of the FBI’s current investigations” target Trump supporters who are suspected of violating what the bureau calls “anti-riot” laws.
One unnamed FBI official told Newsweek that the primary rationale for the nation’s top law enforcement agency to target supporters of the leading Republican candidate for president was to prevent a “repeat of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.”
This was an allusion, of course, to the riot that breached the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers met in early 2021 to certify Biden’s Electoral College victory over Trump.
Newsweek published national security reporter William M. Arkin’s 4,300-word report amid growing concerns and criticism from conservatives and independents about the scope of the FBI’s actions and its apparent partisanship over the past few years.
“The FBI needs a thorough reform,” entrepreneur Elon Musk, who owns X, the social media app formerly called Twitter, posted Wednesday in response to the upcoming movie “Police State” from conservative author, commentator, and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza.
Days before Newsweek published its report on the FBI’s targeting of Trump supporters, Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation, said the FBI needs more than reform.
“It needs to be started over from scratch and rebuilt,” Roberts said Sunday on Fox News Channel. “This is not a law enforcement agency. It’s a political weapon.”
(The Daily Signal is the news organization of The Heritage Foundation.)
Following the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, which occurred two weeks before Biden took over from Trump, the FBI reformed one of its classifications of extremists to include Americans who support conservative or libertarian political organizations and individuals, Newsweek reported.
The FBI calls that classification “anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists-other,” or AGAAVE.
Newsweek’s Arkin cited government insiders who told him that FBI officials regularly use the terms “MAGA” and “Trump supporters” to describe those who fit the AGAAVE profile. (MAGA is short for the Trump campaign slogan Make America Great Again.)
Arkin quoted a senior intelligence official as telling him: “Trump’s army constitutes the greatest threat of violence domestically … politically … that’s the reality and the problem set.” (Newsweek published the quote with ellipses.)
Although the FBI told Newsweek in an official statement that the bureau doesn’t target Americans based on political belief, its previous actions—and similar ones by its parent agency, the Justice Department, and top elected Democrats—appear to communicate otherwise.
In 2021 and 2022, the Justice Department labeled dozens of conservative parents as “domestic terrorists” subject to FBI investigation because they raised concerns at local school board meetings. In recent months, the FBI also has appeared to target pro-life activists.
In direct contradiction of public claims from FBI Director Christopher Wray, internal memos leaked from several FBI field offices revealed that the FBI intended to investigate traditional Catholics as “violent white supremacists.”
Biden repeatedly has labeled citizens in large swathes of the nation as a “threat to the very soul of this country,” as he put it just before the 2022 midterm elections.
The president also consistently has decried “MAGA extremists” and “MAGA dRepublicans” as a threat not only to his policy proposals but “the character of our nation.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., claimed Thursday that MAGA extremists had “plunged Congress into pandemonium” the day before when all House Democrats joined eight Republicans in a vote of 216-210 to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
If it’s true that the FBI actively targets individuals who support Trump’s presidential candidacy in 2024, this presents a serious issue in the upcoming election. One could infer that the FBI, which currently answers to Trump’s primary political opponent, is engaging in election interference by targeting Trump supporters.
A nation’s chief investigative law enforcement agency should be fair, transparent, and above all, apolitical. Using an agency built to investigate federal crimes as a political weapon, as Heritage’s Roberts described, is a dangerous misstep toward abandoning the ideals of America’s republic for a fractured, despotic mess.
Congress should take note: This is why so many Americans have begun to refer to the U.S. as a “banana republic” run by leftist politicians and bureaucrats.
How many revelations need to come out about disturbing and dangerous political activism inside the FBI before Congress takes decisive action?
Cowering behind the “status quo” isn’t going to keep 75 million Americans from being unjustly targeted by one of the most powerful agencies on Earth.
The Constitution gave Congress the authority and responsibility of federal oversight. It’s time lawmakers did their job.
Tony Kinnett is an investigative columnist for The Daily Signal, where this first appeared.