- FBI agents conducted a search for documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence on August 8.
- In the weeks since, violent threats against federal agents have spiked.
- The FBI issued a warning about the trend and lawmakers have demanded action from social platforms.
Nearly two weeks after the FBI executed a search warrant on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, threats against federal agents have spiked online — and among some Republican politicians.
On social media platforms such as Gab, Telegram, and Facebook, researchers saw a significant uptick in references to violence and references to “civil war” increased by 106% after the Mar-a-Lago raid, Insider’s Laura Italiano reported.
“In these right-wing and extremist spaces, they interpret the Mar-a-Lago search not as a legitimate legal process but as the first shots of a war by the federal government,” Alex Friedfeld, a researcher with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told Insider. “So consequently, you’re seeing calls for people to arm up, to lock and load, and to be ready to use real bullets to defend themselves.”
On August 12, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a warning bulletin regarding the increased threats against federal officers. NBC reported the FBI indicated personal identifying information of possible targets of violence, such as home addresses, as well as identification of family members as additional targets, have been posted along with specific and credible threats.
The bulletin also referenced an Ohio gunman who tried to forcibly enter an FBI field office in Cincinnati with an AR-15 rifle and a nail gun on August 11. The suspect was killed in a standoff with police.
In Pennsylvania, Adam Bies, 47, was arrested and charged with threatening to kill FBI agents on multiple occasions following the search on Mar-a-Lago.
“Every single piece of shit who works for the FBI in any capacity, from the director down to the janitor who cleans their fucking toilets deserves to die,” one of Bies’ posts on Gab said, according to the FBI affidavit supporting his arrest. “You’ve declared war on us and now it’s open season on YOU.”
The threats are not limited to online rhetoric or lone actors, as some Republican politicians have amplified and at times escalated the calls for violence.
In Florida this week, Martin Hyde, a GOP Congressional candidate for the US House said in a campaign video that FBI agents would leave his home “in a body bag” if they tried to search him like they did Mar-a-Lago. Likewise, Florida state house candidate Luis Miguel was banned on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook after saying he would legalize shooting federal agents “on sight.”
In an interview with Fox News, Trump himself warned that “terrible things are going to happen” in response to the increased threats, and that the country is in a “very dangerous position” following the search at his residence.
In response to the “flood of violent threats,” Democratic lawmakers are pushing for action from social media platforms they say host calls for violence, calling for increased cooperation with federal agencies.
On August 19, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent letters to social media companies Meta, Twitter, TikTok, Truth Social, Rumble, Gettr, Telegram, and Gab, seeking internal metrics about the calls for violence and requesting information about how such threats are monitored.
“We are concerned that reckless statements by the former President and Republican Members of Congress have unleashed a flood of violent threats on social media that have already led to at least one death and pose a danger to law enforcement officers across the United States,” the letter to the social companies read. “We urge you to take immediate action to address any threats of violence against law enforcement that appear on your company’s platforms.”
A Twitter spokesperson confirmed to Insider it had received the letter, and indicated the company’s enforcement teams are monitoring the platform, watching for violations of its existing violent threat, abusive behavior and hateful conduct policies.
“As always, we evaluate requests from law enforcement in line with our established guidelines for law enforcement requests,” the Twitter spokesperson added.
The Washington Post reported that Gab CEO Andrew Torba said the platform is “considering” its response to Congress and that it responded promptly to law enforcement requests related to the Pennsylvania arrest. Telegram representative Remi Vaughn told The Post the company forbids calls to violence, and that it uses a combination of user reports and proactive moderation to monitor violent threats.
Representatives for Gab, Telegram, Meta, TikTok, Truth Social, Rumble, and Gettr did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
In the letters sent Friday, the lawmakers also asked the companies if legislation may be needed to “protect law enforcement personnel and increase coordination with federal authorities.” No such legislation has yet been introduced.