WASHINGTON (AP) — A man armed with an AR-15 dies in a shootout after trying to breach FBI offices in Cincinnati. A Pennsylvania man is arrested after he posts death threats against agents on social media. In cyberspace, calls for armed uprisings and civil war grow stronger.
This could be just the beginning, federal authorities and private extremism monitors warn. A growing number of ardent Donald Trump supporters seem ready to strike back against the FBI or others who they believe go too far in investigating the former president.
Law-enforcement officials across the country are warning and being warned about an increase in threats and the potential for violent attacks on federal agents or buildings in the wake of the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.
Experts who study radicalization and online disinformation — such as Trump’s aggressive false claims about a stolen election — note that the recent increase was sparked by a legal search of Trump’s Florida home. What might happen in the event of arrests or indications?
“When messaging reaches a certain pitch, things start to happen in the real world,” said former New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer, a onetime federal prosecutor who now directs the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. “And when people in positions of power and public trust start to echo extremist rhetoric, it’s even more likely that we’re going to see real-world consequences.”
Amplified by right-wing media, angry claims by Trump and his allies about the search are fanning the flames of his supporters’ distrust of the FBI — though it’s led by a Trump appointee — and the federal government in general. And at least a few of Trump’s supporters now appear to be acting on his anger.