Yesterday, my friend and Atlantic colleague Peter Wehner published an ominous and prescient piece that highlighted the extraordinary spike in violent rhetoric after the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. Later that morning, an armed man named Ricky Walter Shiffer tried to enter the FBI’s Cincinnati office, an act that triggered a chase and a firefight that ultimately killed him. He had reportedly been at the Capitol on January 6.
While I monitored reports about the attack on the FBI, I also read that Temple Beth David had canceled its beachside Shabbat service after one of its congregants, Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart—the judge who reportedly issued the Trump search warrant—faced an avalanche of online threats.
Keep in mind that the attack, the threats, and the violent rhetoric all happened without the perpetrators possessing any concrete knowledge of the underlying legal or evidentiary reasons for the FBI’s search. The mere existence of the search was deemed sufficient reason for an instant, unified, volcanic right-wing response. And in the Trump era, pro-Trump threats and violence follow pro-Trump rage like night follows day.
It’s been more than seven years since Trump rode down the escalator at Trump Tower and launched his presidential campaign, and in spite of millions of words of commentary about Trump and his movement; countless images of angry, armed Trumpist protesters; and a horrifying, violent attack on the Capitol on January 6, I’ve found that many people still don’t understand the extent to which violence and menace are both indispensable and organic to the MAGA movement.