Desperate to change the subject to something else ― anything else ― after the FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida on Monday, Republicans are pushing an extremely weird and false talking point: Tens of thousands of tax collectors are coming for you.
“The FBI raiding Donald Trump is unprecedented,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted late Monday. “The Biden Admin has fully weaponized DOJ & FBI to target their political enemies. And with 87K new IRS agents, they’re coming for YOU too.”
“One more example of our two-tiered system of justice,” tweeted Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). “Who do you think they’ll weaponize the 87,000 IRS agents against? The answer is obvious. Their political enemies.”
What on earth are they talking about?
It’s an incredibly disjointed effort, but Republicans are trying to gloss over the actual news ― that the FBI just spent a full day searching Trump’s Mar-A-Lago property for classified documents that he allegedly took from the White House instead of giving them to the National Archives, which is required by law ― and somehow make this about Senate Democrats passing a sweeping climate and health care package last week.
The Democratic bill, which is on track for Friday passage in the House, is a major legislative victory for President Joe Biden. Among other things, it reduces the nation’s output of greenhouse gasses and makes health care more affordable. Senate Republicans all voted against it, and many were really hoping to spend the coming weeks or even months publicly attacking its scope and price tag as their reelection campaigns gain steam.
Alas, the FBI had to go and ruin it for them.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on the FBI raiding former President Donald Trump's house in Florida: Hey, look over here at this totally unrelated thing! (Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images)
Republicans have had their messaging all ready to go on the bill, including their claim that it will lead to 87,000 Internal Revenue Service agents coming for Republican taxpayers. It’s not clear where that number came from. The bill beefs up IRS enforcement by about $80 billion over the next 10 years, but that money is specifically to help the agency go after egregious tax-dodging by the ultra-rich, not average taxpayers, and it is expected to generate more than $120 billion.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, made that point clear to reporters on Saturday evening, chiding Republicans for fearmongering with their claims that the new IRS resources would go toward auditing plain vanilla taxpayers.
“The fact is, that’s not going to happen,” Wyden said just before the bill passed in the Senate. “It’s completely different than the wealthy tax cheats.”
Nonetheless, Republicans like their IRS talking points and really don’t want to get on Trump’s bad side ahead of the midterm elections in November. So they’ve settled on talking about Democrats’ domestic policy legislation in the same breath as the FBI raiding a former U.S. president’s house as if they’re connected, which they are not at all.
“Senate Democrats just passed their insane tax-and-spend package, which includes funding for more than 87,000 new IRS agents — more than State, DoD, and CBP combined,” Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) tweeted Tuesday. “This nonsense + wild weaponization of the FBI + Democrats’ inflation, crime, border crises = @HouseGOP landslide.”
“If the FBI can raid the home of a former US President, imagine what 87,000 more IRS agents will do to you,” tweeted Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.).
“The same Democrats cheering on the FBI raiding President Trump’s house are trying to give the IRS 87,000 new agents and an additional $80 billion,” tweeted Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.). “And we’re supposed to believe they won’t also weaponize the IRS?”
In addition to spreading misinformation, GOP lawmakers are glossing over a major detail as they accuse FBI Director Christopher Wray of going after Trump for political reasons.
Senate Republicans unanimously confirmed Wray in 2017. Wray himself is a Republican, and he was Trump’s appointee to the top FBI post.
“The @FBI raid on President Trump was approved by Director Wray, who also claimed that the illegal FISA warrants used to spy on Trump were constitutional,” fumed Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who voted to confirm Wray. “Today’s raid is outrageous and unjust, but predictable.”
“Using government power to persecute political opponents is something we have seen many times from 3rd world Marxist dictatorships. But never before in America,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who not only voted to confirm Wray but also previously praised the FBI for looking into then-presidential candidate Hillary’s Clinton’s mishandling of emails in 2016.
“The FBI’s decision regarding Clinton’s mishandling of classified emails once again proves that she is DQ’d from being Commander in Chief,” Rubio said in July 2016. Oops.
The FBI's decision regarding Clinton's mishandling of classified emails once again proves that she is DQ'd from being Commander in Chief.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 5, 2016
House Republicans eager to paint the FBI as a partisan arm for Democrats, meanwhile, could use a history lesson.
“The inconsistent and partisan application of the law by the FBI has gone too far,” charged Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.). “The Democrats, for too long, have used our government agencies from the FBI to the IRS to target their political opponents.”
Except there has never been a Democratic director of the FBI.
Jonathan Nicholson contributed reporting.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.