Republican Florida Rep. Francis Rooney called for a “purge” of the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation by citing one FBI agent’s anti-Trump’s texts as proof of a “deep state” conspiracy to bring down the president.
Rooney told MSNBC host Hallie Jackson Tuesday that, “I’m very concerned that the DOJ and the FBI, whether you want to call it deep state or what, are kind of off the rails. People need a good, clean government.”
“Do you think people don’t have a good clean government?” Jackson asked. “There are those that look at comments like the ones that you’re making and say Republicans are working to essentially try to discredit the Department of Justice and thus discredit the Russia investigations. Is that not what you’re doing?”
“No, I don’t want to discredit them. I just, I would like to see the directors of the agencies purge it and say, look, we’ve got a lot of great agents, a lot of great lawyers here,” Rooney said. “Those are the people I want the American people to see and know the good work’s being done, not these people who are kind of the deep state.”
“Language like that, congressman, purge?” Jackson pressed. “Purge the Department of Justice?”
“Well, I think that Mr. Strzok could be purged, sure,” Rooney said.
WATCH: GOP Rep. Francis Rooney calls for 'purge' of FBI, accuses some in the agency of being a part of the 'deep state' pic.twitter.com/kkJTBPFeui
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) December 26, 2017
Peter Strzok is the agent Republicans are pointing to as a sign of an anti-Trump conspiracy because he sent some critical text messages during the campaign. He also, however, sent texts deriding Chelsea Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and Bernie Sanders.
It’s also unclear how DOJ and FBI officials would root out employees who are not loyal to the president, whose approval rating is barely hovering above 30 percent.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called Rooney’s call for a “purge” downright Stalin-esque.
A “purge” of the FBI? Been reading biographies of Stalin lately, congressman? Stop. Now. https://t.co/CtnSfOw4KV
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) December 26, 2017
Author Brian Klaas, who writes about authoritarianism, said the call mirrors “authoritarian states” and slammed Republicans for trying to “politicize the rule of law to create impunity for the leader” in an effort to “try to discredit Mueller’s eventual damning reports.”
This rhetoric is indistinguishable from authoritarian states. This isn’t a drill. It’s an ongoing, well-strategized attempt to politicize rule of law to create impunity for the leader and his entourage—so Republicans can try to discredit Mueller’s eventual damning report. https://t.co/xCuovgLvm5
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) December 26, 2017
This is especially dangerous because while Trump has tried to act like a dictator, the United States system is designed with checks and balances to keep the president from posing a genuine threat to the democracy itself. But with Republicans inexplicably jumping on Trump’s conspiracy theory that the “deep state” is out to get him, America is on the verge of a real constitutional crisis.
“We focus on Trump’s antics. They remain erratic and unbridled,” wrote Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall. “But equally important, probably more important, is the absence of any overriding respect for the rule of law or democratic norms among his supporters.”
While Republicans try to discredit the FBI in their investigation into the president’s team, they are playing directly into Russia’s hand.
Former CIA Director Michael Morrell and former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Michael Rogers wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post noting that not only did Russia meddle in the election, they are still meddling in our democracy.
“There is a perception among the media and general public that Russia ended its social media operations following last year’s election and that we need worry only about future elections,” they wrote. “But that perception is wrong. Russia’s information operations in the United States continued after the election, and they continue to this day.”