“Response to Trump Search Highlights Violent Rhetoric From the Right”


One week after a team of F.B.I. agents descended on his private club and residence in Florida, former President Donald J. Trump warned that his followers were enraged by the search — and that things could get out of hand if the Justice Department kept the heat on him.

“People are so angry at what is taking place,” Mr. Trump told Fox News. “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.”

This week, one of Mr. Trump’s closest allies, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, issued a similar warning that Mr. Trump quickly reposted on his social media platform. Mr. Graham, in a Fox News appearance on Sunday, predicted that if the search of Mar-a-Lago led to a prosecution of the former president, there would be “riots in the streets.”

The assessments by both men were worded carefully enough that they could be defended as efforts to spare the nation unnecessary strife, and on Monday, Mr. Graham tried to walk back his remarks, saying, “I reject violence.”

But the statements could also be perceived as fanning the same flames of outrage they claimed to be trying to avert. They carried a distinct echo of Mr. Trump’s calls after the 2020 election to do what was needed to keep him in office, signals that contributed to the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol soon after he urged his supporters to “fight like hell.”

In a broader sense, the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago has emerged as the latest rallying cry for those on the right who have long been suspicious that the powers of the federal government could be turned against them. It has prompted calls to dismantle or defund the F.B.I. and furious denunciations of what far-right supporters of Mr. Trump increasingly portray as an overreaching national security apparatus.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump spent much of the morning reposting messages from known purveyors of the QAnon conspiracy theory and from 4chan, an anonymous message platform where threats of violence often blossom. Some were outright provocations, such as a photograph of President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi with their faces obscured by the words, “Your enemy is not in Russia.”

Over the past several years, intimations of violence have become more common in the Republican Party, a trend fueled in large part by Mr. Trump’s lies about his election loss. Threats of violent responses from the right have also shown up around policy changes such as the recent gun legislation signed into law by Mr. Biden and surrounding hot-button social issues like transgender rights and the teaching of antiracism themes in schools.

Now the response by Mr. Trump and some of his allies to the search at Mar-a-Lago — including statements laced with fury at the Justice Department and the F.B.I. — is underscoring yet again the degree to which threatening undertones are creeping into Republican political speech, raising concern about words spilling over into violent action.

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