The FBI has received a “stunning” uptick in threats in the month since Mar-a-Lago was searched, Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Thursday after a briefing with the agency.
“More and more people [are] questioning government, questioning authority and threatening their lives in the process,” he said.
“I will just tell you it was stunning the number of threads that have been cataloged and indexed since the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.”
Durbin declined to offer statistics, saying the agency asked him not to share them, but his comments align with a mid-August memo from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI noting that threats had increased since former President Trump’s home was searched.
The briefing with the Senate Judiciary Committee came just hours after Trump gave an interview to radio host Hugh Hewitt blasting the search as politically motivated.
“I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it,” Trump said, adding later, “I just don’t think they’d stand for it. They will not, they will not sit still and stand for this ultimate of hoaxes.”
Durbin said the “FBI, DHS, were very careful in what they said. They didn’t pinpoint any politicians, any party,” as a driver behind the uptick in threats.
But the chair said he sees a clear source of motivation.
“I can tell you my personal feelings. Inviting the mob to return to the streets is exactly what happened here Jan. 6, 2021. This president knew what he was doing at that rally, and we saw the results: five people died, 149 law enforcement agents were injured. His careless, inflammatory rhetoric has its consequences,” Durbin said.
Durbin said the FBI is concerned for agents’ personal safety as well as that of their families, raising the issue that some are fearful for their families as “more and more personal information” can be found online.
Agents already had to face an armed man who tried to enter the FBI’s Cincinnati field office, only to be later shot dead after raising his firearm.
Durbin’s remarks came the day after the House Oversight Committee penned a letter to the director of the Federal Protective Service, asking for a rundown of plans to protect federal employees’ security given the uptick in anti-government sentiment.
“We fully support the First Amendment rights of all Americans to share their opinions and engage in spirited debate about U.S. government actions, but threats of violence and incitements to violence are illegal and dangerous,” the panel wrote in its letter.
“The committee is extremely concerned that this volatile threat environment puts federal employees in grave danger and at risk of violence.”
Some of Trump’s most vocal defenders in Congress have made calls to defund the FBI in the wake of the search.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), a member of the committee who does not support the defund effort, said after the briefing that the Justice Department needs to do more to battle the conspiracy theories it faces, though he did not comment on their origins.
“I do believe the FBI and Department of Justice have got to start being more transparent. And they know the conspiracy theories are out there. So, you know, convince people that they’re not true.”