National leaders are warning of the potential for political violence as campaign rhetoric heats up, fueled by an FBI investigation into Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents that has generated a furious backlash from him and his supporters.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and loyal Trump ally, faced criticism this week after claiming that there would be “riots in the streets” if the Justice Department prosecutes Trump. His comments come after Trump himself warned that “the temperature has to be brought down in the country. If it isn’t, terrible things are going to happen.”
With less than 10 weeks to go before the midterm elections, the political climate is increasingly volatile, experts who study extremism say. Federal agencies like the IRS, FBI and National Archives are beefing up security as they become targets of the right. Lawmakers are disclosing threats and openly predicting violence; one even says that it has become too dangerous to hold public events and that she feels the need to shield her family from harm.
On Tuesday, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a vocal Trump critic and frequent GOP target, said a man called his office, repeating homophobic slurs and threatening to shoot and kill the congressman.
Swalwell, who has previously tweeted about threats to his office, wrote: “Bloodshed is coming.”
The fresh warnings of violence come as Trump and his allies ramp up their rhetorical attacks on federal law enforcement following the Aug. 8 search of the former president’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, for classified materials that were stored there.
Republicans have criticized the Justice Department and the FBI, with some calling to defund the bureau; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., labeled Attorney General Merrick Garland a “radical communist.”