The Far Right Doesn’t Want to Defund FBI. They Want It to Follow Their Orders.

“Defund the FBI” is the growing call by Republicans after the FBI searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. Alex Vitale, the author of The End of PolicingHe outlines reasons to defund it. FBIThey have nothing to do Trump. Vitale examines the history and development of the FBI, which he says has “always been a tool of repression of left-wing movements,” and calls the FBI investigation into Trump a “shortsighted” attempt to shut down some of the most extreme parts of the right wing. He uplifts efforts to “reduce the power and scope of the FBI in ways that limit their ability to demonize and criminalize those on the left.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be final.

AMY GOODMAN:The Justice Department asked a federal judge to not unseal a sworn statement used by the Justice Department. FBI to recover 11 sets of secret government documents from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last week. The affidavit is the basis of an application that convinced a judge to sign off on the FBI’s search warrant. In a federal court filing, prosecutors said the affidavit’s release would compromise the continuing investigation and could chill the future cooperation of witnesses. The warrant was unsealed Friday and revealed that Trump is being investigated for violating the Espionage Act as well as obstruction of justice.

Fallout from FBIThe raid continues to grow, even though Republican lawmakers denounce it FBIFlorida Senator Rick Scott made the comparison between the agency and the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. Jesse Watters, Fox News host, has called for the firing FBIDonald Trump appointed Christopher Wray Director.

JESSE WATTERS:Chris Wray needs to be fired by next Republican president. Don’t even wait. Don’t hesitate to fire him immediately after the jump.

AMY GOODMAN:A growing number of Republicans call for the FBIto be defunded. Far-right Republican Congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted on Monday, “Impeach Merrick Garland and Defund the corrupt FBI! End political persecution and hold those responsible who abuse their power to persecute our political enemies. This shouldn’t happen in America. Republicans must force it to stop!” Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted. Others are calling for the FBIAnthony Sabatini (a Republican congressional candidate from Florida) is one of the candidates to be defunded.

REP. ANTHONY SABATINI:I believe that every candidate and elected official in this election is a winner. GOPRight now, it is necessary to publicly pledge to defund these lawless agencies.

AMY GOODMAN:Attacks by the Republican Party on the FBIThis marks a radical shift in the party, which has long been supportive of the idea. FBI. Bobby Rush, a Democratic Congressman from Illinois introduced legislation to force the law last year. FBIto reveal more details about its secret COINTELPROIn the 1960s, the program was used to disrupt and surveil groups such as the Black Panther Party, the American Indian Movement, Martin Luther King Jr., and other individuals. The legislation had 24 co-sponsors — none of them Republican.

For more information about the FBI, we’re joined by Alex Vitale, professor of sociology and coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College here in New York. He’s the author of The End of Policing. His new piece for Truthout is headlined “There Are Good Reasons to Defund the FBI. They Have Nothing to Do With Trump.”

Well, Professor Vitale, let’s start there. It might shock many to hear — and we just chose a few clips, but they are growing around the country — “defund the FBI” from Republicans all over the United States. Can you talk more about this?

ALEX VITALE:It is a sort of amusing ideological confusion from their part. They’ve rested so much of their platform on a kind of “back the blue” authoritarianism, and to now see that turned around on the FBI is, on the one hand, amusing, but, on the other hand, I think it’s instructive. It tells us a lot more about what their perception of law enforcement is. It’s not the neutral, professional enforcement of the law that they often claim; it’s actually a political tool. The difference here is that they think that it’s a political tool that should be used on their behalf, and they’re really upset to see law enforcement being used against so-called, you know, god-fearing, patriarchal white nationalists as opposed to using those forces against immigrant communities, communities of color, sex workers and, of course, the political left. And so, it’s a kind of a repeat of January 6th, where we saw, you know, “back the blue” flags being used to beat local police.

AMY GOODMAN:Do you see a gathering of progressives calling for defunding of the police and these calls from the far right?

ALEX VITALE:It is not. This is not about trying build an alliance across ideological divides. Talking about defunding the police of the left is a completely different thing. I believe the right is not trying to diminish the power of the FBINot to remove the leadership but to make it more political-friendly with the far right agenda.

AMY GOODMAN:Can you speak about Donald Trump’s history using the FBIUse it as a political tool

ALEX VITALE: Absolutely. Yes. FBIIt is a political tool. It is a political tool. Under Trump and many past presidents, we’ve seen the FBIThis tool is used to create fear of crime, demonize political enemies, and even to wage wars on drugs and terror. And most recently, with the Trump administration, right as he went into election mode, he tried to capitalize on fear of crime by creating Operation Relentless Pursuit, that targeted exclusively Democratic cities for intensive flooding of federal agents, more money for local police, more intensive federal prosecutions of basically street crime, in a way that was designed to try to say, “Look, the problems of urban America are not disinvestment, deindustrialization, racial segregation of housing. No, the problems of urban American, of Democratic cities, is too much crime, and the solution to that is more policing.” And that was a political project. Residents in most of the cities targeted by this initiative protested immediately and demanded that federal policing be reduced.

AMY GOODMAN:Go through the entire history of the FBIHow it was created. And then talk about what you’re calling for and how that differs from what, well, people like Marjorie Taylor Greene are calling for.

ALEX VITALE:The history of the Internet can be accessed in just two minutes FBI. So, it started as the —

AMY GOODMAN:Three can be good.

ALEX VITALE:In the early 20th-century, it was known as the Bureau of Investigations. It was very clear that this was going on to be a political tool in order to go after communists, anarchists or striking workers. J. Edgar Hoover, in the 1920s, takes over the Bureau of Investigations. In the early 1930s it is renamed the The. FBI. It is a vast system of political policing. Files are kept on millions of Americans — religious leaders, political leaders, celebrities, and, of course, labor leaders, leftist organizers, peace activists. The list goes on. FBI is the primary tool at the federal level that’s used to suppress left movements, from the Palmer raids, that attacked opposition to World War I, to attacks on striking workers, the labor movement.

As communists are successfully crushed in many ways, the mission shifts by the 1960s. The new threat, in Hoover’s eyes, becomes the Black liberation movements of the 1960s, beginning really with the Birmingham bus boycotts and continuing on to the Freedom Rides and the lunch counter sit-ins. Long before even the more, let’s say, militant Black Power movement, the FBIIt is already laser-focused to spy on and undermine Black liberation movements. This includes dirty tricks like open surveillance of people in order to intimidate them, hiring informants, writing false letters to try to implicate people with marital infidelities. Wiretapping phones, false accusations that they are police collaborators in an attempt to sow dissension within this movement.

In the 1980s, the focus shifts to the environmental movement, with Earth First and other organizations as the main targets.

The so-called war upon terror is the main focus, as it was after 9/11. They concoct all sorts of absurd plots to justify increasing anti-terror and counterterrorism budgets. Then they find intellectually inept people to attach these plots to. They make false promises to lure them in, and then they find people who are unable to carry out these plots. One example is the so-called Herald Square bombing plot, which took place in New York City. FBIThey were proud to have prevented the terrorist attack by a young man who didn’t know what he was involved in and was totally incapable of carrying it out. He also asked at the very last minute if his parents would allow him to call them to request permission to continue to behave like this.

The result? FBIIt has been used to repress left-wing movements since its inception.

AMY GOODMAN:So, how did this happen? If you can talk more specifically about President Trump’s Operation Relentless Pursuit and the cities he targeted?

ALEX VITALE: Sure. So, Operation Relentless Pursuit was a kind of effort to go after Trump’s sort of political bogeyman — right? — to say that the problems of America were the result of drug cartels and gangbangers, and that the way to restore cities was through superintensive law enforcement, the use of RICO statutes, the so-called conspiracy laws that allow them to round up huge numbers of young people — because someone that they once smoked weed in the park with got arrested for shooting someone, now they’re all in a criminal conspiracy and can all be charged with the underlying homicide or shooting or whatever. And so, this just flooded these cities with Drug Enforcement Agency — DEA agents, ATF, FBI, who just went on an arrest raid, jump-outs, and all of the rest.

And one of the things that’s shocking about this is that all seven of the Democratic mayors in the targeted cities basically embraced this — Baltimore somewhat less so. They were open to the infusion of funds for local policing. They also welcomed federal law enforcement. This is a sign of a deeper bipartisan problem about the role played by law enforcement in revitalizing American cities.

AMY GOODMAN: I shouldn’t have said “how did it change,” because that was a continuation. But how do we see what the FBITrump’s home, and those who have supported the agency in the past now comparing them with the Gestapo and, most importantly, right up to President Trump attacking them.

ALEX VITALE: Yeah, well, we’ve always had some FBI enforcement of the extreme right — the KKKThese are just a few of the extreme-right-wing groups that have existed over the past 20 years. It has been short-lived, anemic, and essentially in the service a very conservative centrism that wants sort of to wipe out any type of populism. New York TimesLiberal anti-populism that favors a technocratic neoliberal approach.

And so, what we’re seeing here is some flexing of centrist muscle to try to shut down the most extreme parts of the right wing, in a way, though, that I think is going to backfire and that does nothing to actually address the widespread popularity of these extremist views. Marjorie Taylor Greene claims we should defund these extremist views. FBIInstantly, she receives hundreds of thousand of likes on Twitter. So, these are — what we thought were fringe ideas have become way too mainstream. And the idea that we’re going to fix this problem with some indictments of Giuliani and Trump, I think, is very shortsighted.

AMY GOODMAN:What are you looking for?

ALEX VITALE:I think we should, you know, use this rhetorical opportunity to raise some existing efforts to try and rein in the power the FBI. You’ve got groups like Defending Rights & Dissent, that’s trying to rework the FBI First Amendment Protection Act that John Conyers introduced in the 1980s to restrict the FBI’s political policing powers. We need to examine the BREATHEAyanna Pressley introduced the Act, along with others, to reduce federal funding for law enforcement and redirect those resources into positive, on-the ground public safety programs. We should look at the efforts to end drug war by groups like Drug Policy Alliance. We must do more. FBIFederal law enforcement out of use RICOstatutes to target young people in urban areas. The Decriminalizing Networks Network is working on campaigns to change the way we use the RICO Act. There are many efforts being made across the country to decrease the power and reach of the FBIIn ways that limit their ability demonize and criminalize those on both the left and those who were left out of the Neoliberal Consensus.

AMY GOODMAN:Alex Vitale, thank you so much for being here. Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College in New York. Author of The End of Policing. We’ll link to your piece in Truthout, “There Are Good Reasons to Defund the FBI. They Have Nothing to Do With Trump.”

Next, the CIAAnd former CIADirector Mike Pompeo was sued for spying on U.S. journalists and lawyers who met with Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, while he was in Ecuadorian Embassy in London. We’ll speak with the lead lawyer in the case. Keep following us.