Could a four-page memo expose FBI wrongdoing so severe that it triggers massive firings and a scandal of a scale not seen since Watergate?
Or maybe there is a “secret society” within the FBI, formed to undermine President Trump?
Perhaps nefarious actions are to blame for thousands of text messages mysteriously lost — and then mysteriously found?
The last week has seen one of the most audacious efforts yet by Republicans seeking to discredit the FBI, the Justice Department, special counsel Robert Mueller, and others who have been investigating Trump and the question of whether there was any collusion with Russia in the leadup to the 2016 election.
“I believe it’s imperative that some of our members temper their rhetoric toward the FBI,” Representative Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican, said in an interview. “It seems to me that we’re in a bit of uncharted water now.”
The level of partisanship and willingness to launch unfounded attacks, some Republicans worry, could hamper the party’s ability to draw attention to actual areas of concern when they arise.
Representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, released a statement calling the memo “jaw-dropping.” Representative Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, said on the House floor that it was so disturbing that he almost wished he’d never seen it.
“I read it twice just to make sure I read it properly,” Representative David Joyce, a Republican from Ohio, said on Fox News. “You’d be surprised how bad it is.”
“What this is all about is further evidence of corruption, more than bias,” Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, told Fox News on Tuesday. “Corruption of the highest levels of the FBI. The secret society — we have an informant talking about a group that was holding secret meetings off site.”
“The damage to the bureau and the department is really incalculable,” Schiff said. “The public will have even less confidence in those institutions. When FBI agents fan out across the country and do interviews and prevent terrorist plots, people may view them with greater suspicion. . . . It’s overwhelmingly destructive and such a disservice to the hard-working law enforcement agents.
“Like much of what’s happened under this administration, it’s going to do long-term damage,” Schiff added. “Instead of seeking to mend the divisions during the election, this is only going to further tear down these institutions. And who knows how long it’ll take to recover from this.”