F.B.I. Search Ignited Violent Rhetoric on the Far Right

For the past six years, Donald J. Trump’s most loyal supporters have gone on the attack against federal law-enforcement officials whenever they have sought to investigate the former president or his allies.

But the reaction this week to the F.B.I.’s court-approved search of Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s residence in Palm Beach, Fla., went far beyond the usual ire and indignation. Pro-Trump influencers, figures in the media and a Republican candidate for office employed the language of violence to rally opposition.

“Tomorrow is war,” Steven Crowder, a conservative commentator with 1.9 million Twitter followers, wrote on the site within hours of the search. “Sleep well.”

The search appeared to be focused on material that the former president had brought with him to Mar-a-Lago from the White House, according to multiple people familiar with the investigation. But the reaction on the right cast the F.B.I. move as purely political. The aggressive, widespread response was arguably the clearest outburst of violent public rhetoric since the days leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“This. Means. War,” The Gateway Pundit, a pro-Trump outlet, wrote in an online post. The post was quickly amplified by a Telegram account connected to Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s onetime political adviser, who was found guilty last month of two counts of contempt of Congress.

Hours later, on the podcast “Bannon’s War Room,” Mr. Bannon himself asked Joe Kent, a Trump-endorsed House candidate in Washington, for his assessment of the search.

“This just shows everyone what many of us have been saying for a very long time,” Mr. Kent declared. “We’re at war.”

A Trump supporter near Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday, a day after an FBI search of the former president’s property.Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Experts on political violence argue that even if aggressive language does not directly end in physical harm, it creates a dangerous atmosphere where the idea of violence slowly becomes more accepted. Actual attacks against people or institutions become more likely, the experts contend, when elected officials or high-profile figures in the media are able to issue threats or calls for violence with impunity.

“Violent language, including things like calling for war, normalizes violence and encourages people inclined toward it to be more violent,” said Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior fellow in the democracy, conflict, and governance program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

After the search at Mar-a-Lago, the idea that things in the United States had become so dire that violence was required was repeatedly uttered by a range of right-wing figures — among them, self-proclaimed extremists and former members of Mr. Trump’s administration. In the 2016 election cycle, many of Mr. Trump’s supporters had followed his lead in demanding that his opponent in the race, Hillary Clinton, be jailed for the practice of maintaining a private email server for government-related messages while she was secretary of state.

“Country on the verge of CIVIL WAR???” Nicholas J. Fuentes, a prominent white nationalist, asked in a post advertising a livestream about the search.

Despite such heated rhetoric, there were no immediate reports of any violence or even large-scale protests. But there were some indications that activists were planning demonstrations against the F.B.I.

A flier appeared online on Monday night calling for a protest against “F.B.I. tyranny” on Wednesday outside one of the bureau’s field offices in California. The flier was posted by Toni Ringlein, a right-wing organizer and real-estate agent in Palm Springs, Calif., who marched on the Capitol on Jan. 6.

According to the website Mediaite, Ms. Ringlein attended the Conservative Political Action Conference last year, where she falsely claimed that the 2020 election had been stolen and that Joseph R. Biden Jr. would “never, ever, ever be my president.” In social media posts, she had referred to Mr. Biden as a “traitor,” saying he should be hanged.

On Tuesday, the heated rhetoric was used by some more mainstream Republicans. Monica Crowley, a former public affairs official in Mr. Trump’s Treasury Department, took to Twitter to issue declare: “This is it. This is the hill to die on.”

The New York Young Republican Club issued a lengthy statement in the wake of the search condemning the “continued persecution” of Mr. Trump by “totalitarian Democrats.” The statement called not only for the “total disintegration” of F.B.I. but also suggested that action beyond merely “voting out” the former president’s enemies was required.

“Internationalist forces and their allies intent on undermining the foundation of our Republic have crossed the Rubicon,” the statement said, “and it is the express belief of the New York Young Republican Club that, should justice not be carried out swiftly on these matters by ALL our elected officials and leaders, nothing less than the future of the Union is on the line.”

In the days leading up to Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the idea that a civil war was drawing near was prevalent in right-wing circles. Extremist leaders like Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers militia, and Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the Proud Boys, often rallied their groups with incendiary references to the cleansing violence of the American Revolution. Both men have been charged with sedition in the Capitol attack.

On websites like, which has been taken down since the attack, people shared tactics and techniques for attacking the Capitol building and discussed building gallows and trapping lawmakers in tunnels there.

On Monday night, following the F.B.I. raid, Trump supporters on social media apps like Gab and Truth Social brazenly displayed a taste for weapons and armed conflict.

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