Threats to the FBI are rampant. Ohio’s GOP leadership has little to say.

An FBI facility in Cincinnati was attacked last week

By: - August 17, 2022 3:45 am

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Some prominent Ohio Republicans have been calling for congressional oversight of the FBI in the wake of its search of former President Donald Trump’s home and club in Florida. But so far, only three have condemned last week’s attack on the Cincinnati FBI office that appears to be the result of a man’s anger over the search.

In addition, none of the leaders apparently has called on Republican colleagues to tone down their rhetoric against federal law enforcement as the country waits to learn more about the investigation. 

And none have called on Trump to explain what he was doing in Florida with a trove of top-secret documents — some possibly relating to nuclear secrets — more than a year-and-a-half after leaving office.

On Monday, Aug. 8, Trump announced the stunning news that the FBI had executed a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago compound in South Florida and seized numerous documents. Without waiting for more information, some of his allies swung into action, mounting a full attack on the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice, of which it is a part.

“DEFUND THE FBI!” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., tweeted the same day.

Ohio U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan on Twitter called the Department of Justice “out of control” and claimed that Trump “does nothing wrong” that would instigate such a search.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S,C., tweeted, “The FBI has proven time and again that it is corrupt to the core. At what point do we abolish the Bureau and start over?” 

Also without waiting for any clarifying information, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he would use his power if he becomes speaker next year to paralyze Attorney General Merrick Garland with investigations into the search.

“Attorney General Garland: preserve your documents and clear your calendar,” he tweeted, apparently unaware of the irony that the case in question is about Trump improperly removing government documents and possibly destroying some. McCarthy’s tweet added, “I’ve seen enough. The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization.”

Fox News even went after the U.S. magistrate judge who signed off on the warrant to search Trump’s property. Filling in for Tucker Carlson, host Brian Kilmeade last Thursday broadcast a faked photo of the judge with convicted sex offender Ghislaine Maxwell and said “So a picture of Bruce Reinhart. This is the judge in charge of the… warrant. We’ll see if he’ll release it next. He likes Oreos and whiskey,” Politico reported Kilmeade as saying.

The following day, Kilmeade didn’t apologize for the deception, he only said that the faked photo “was in jest.”

Not surprisingly, federal authorities say that the judge and the FBI have been deluged with threats in the wake of such rhetoric from members of an organization that calls itself the “party of law and order.” The radius of the threats has been big enough that Judge Reinhart’s synagogue called off a Shabbat service in response to them.

The morning before Kilmeade broadcast the faked picture, Ricky Shiffer, 42, attempted to enter the FBI building in Cincinnati with a nail gun and an AR-15-style weapon. After the FBI search of Trump’s property, Shiffer went on Trump’s social media platform and posted “get whatever you need to be ready for combat,” the Washington Post reported.

Authorities are investigating whether Shiffer had ties to the Proud Boys, an extremist group suspected of helping to organize the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

After a car chase and an armed standoff, police killed Shiffer in a rural area between Cincinnati and Columbus, where Shiffer lived and worked as an electrician.

Some Republican officials’ blasts against federal law enforcement began to quiet on Thursday. That’s when the Washington Post reported that some of the classified documents officials were looking for in Trump’s unsecure compound relate to nuclear weapons.

They also quieted on Friday, when the court released an inventory of what was taken in the search. It said agents recovered 11 sets of classified information, some of it so secret that it’s only supposed to be handled in special rooms — and in addition to doing other damage, disclosure of which could endanger U.S. spies and intelligence assets overseas.

But Ohio’s Republican leadership hasn’t had a lot to say about the matter.

On Monday — four days after the attack on an FBI office in Ohio — WBNS Channel 10 asked Gov. Mike DeWine why his office hadn’t spoken out about it.

“You haven’t heard any reaction because you know, obviously any time there’s an attack on law enforcement, whether it’s local law enforcement, federal law enforcement, the FBI, DEA, this is something that is very scary and this is something that just is a horrible, horrible thing,” DeWine said. “And so we certainly denounce that type of activity.”

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also denounced the attack.

DeWine’s was asked whether he condemned the anti-FBI rhetoric by Republicans such as Greene — or whether DeWine believed Trump should explain to the American people exactly what he was doing with all that secret material after being asked and subpoenaed to give it back.

“Our office does not have additional comment on these topics,” Dan Tierney, DeWine’s press secretary, said in an email.

Even though U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, his staff passed up an opportunity to condemn an attack on an FBI building in Cincinnati, his hometown.

Asked whether Portman condemned it and whether the outgoing senator thought Trump should explain himself, spokeswoman Mollie Timmons referred to a statement Portman issued on Sunday. It called for an investigation of the FBI.

“The surprise FBI search of former President Trump’s personal residence is unprecedented. Never has a former president and potential political opponent to the sitting president been subject to such a search,” it said. “The Attorney General and the FBI should now demonstrate unprecedented transparency and explain to the American people why they authorized the raid.”

J.D. Vance, the Republican candidate running to fill Portman’s seat, is a beneficiary of a GOP effort to fundraise off of outrage over the FBI’s court-approved seizure of state secrets that apparently shouldn’t have been in the former president’s possession, ABC reported.

While that may be the case, Vance came out last Friday and condemned the man who attacked the FBI in Cincinnati as “a whacko.” But he did so while also saying that the leadership of the Justice Department has “no credibility,” and that politics “is all they do anymore.” He also implied that Trump supporters’ attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department didn’t help motivate Shiffer’s attack on the FBI.

“The left is very cynically refusing to separate criticism of the leadership of the DOJ from some of these ridiculous things that are happening,” Vance said during an appearance on “The Mark Blazor Show” on  iHeart Radio. “For example, in Cincinnati, where I live… you have this complete whacko, he went to an FBI field office. I obviously condemn violent attacks against FBI field offices. But the simple truth is, that’s a totally separate question; a whacko — who got what was coming to him — going into an FBI field office. That’s a totally separate question from whether the leadership of the DOJ is conducting itself in a political manner. And just because a violent guy does a bad thing doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to criticize our government officials.”

Something must be causing people to lash out. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have issued a joint intelligence bulletin saying that threats against federal law enforcement have spiked since the raid on Trump’s home, NBC News reported Sunday.

Even so, Vance accused media outlets reporting on anti-FBI and DOJ statements made by Trump supporters of not caring about law and order and only wanting to score political points.

“You see the media all over Twitter, all over MSNBC, all over these networks basically saying that Republicans and Trump incited this attack by having the temerity to criticize the leadership of their own government.” he said. “They’re two totally separate things and the fact that they’re using it so cynically suggests that these people do not care about the truth and they do not care about law and order. They only care about scoring political victories.”

Unlike Vance, the office of Ohio’s top cop, Attorney General Dave Yost, didn’t comment on the attack on law enforcement in Ohio. That’s a change from last year in Elyria, when Yost spoke passionately of the importance of protecting police.

“Each day they put on the uniform and the badge, and they walk out on the street to confront violence and evil at the risk of their own lives,” he said, according to the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. In the same speech, Yost slammed calls to “defund the police.”

But now that some members of his own party are making a nearly identical appeal, Yost’s office did not respond this week to questions about the matter, nor is there any comment on his Twitter page.

Yost isn’t the only Ohio official who seems to have gone silent after earlier, pro-law enforcement declarations.

In May, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose took to Twitter to say, “We need to support and honor our law enforcement heroes.” He added, “Know this: we have your back.” 

But his office and his Twitter page were silent as of Tuesday about the past two weeks’ attacks on federal law enforcement.

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Marty Schladen
Marty Schladen

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He's won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.