Ark. Gov. Hutchinson Defends FBI, Says Fellow Republicans Should 'Pull Back' on Judging Mar-a-Lago Search

“If the GOP is going to be the party of supporting law enforcement, law enforcement includes the FBI,” the governor said after others in his party claimed the search was politically motivated

Asa Hutchinson
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty

The Republican governor of Arkansas is defending the FBI and urging members of his party to refrain from criticizing the federal law enforcement agency for conducting a lawful search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property last week.

"If the GOP is going to be the party of supporting law enforcement, law enforcement includes the FBI," Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who's not a Trump fan, said during an interview on CNN Sunday. "Those folks on the ground do extraordinarily heroic efforts to enforce our rule of law, which is fundamental to the Republican Party and to our democracy. The FBI is part of that."

FBI agents executed a search warrant at Trump's Palm Beach, Fla., home Aug. 8. When the warrant was unsealed Friday, it showed that the agents were investigating possible violations of the Espionage Act and other laws related to national security. A receipt from the search indicated that 11 sets of classified documents — some marked top secret — were taken from the property.

Trump defended himself in a statement, claiming the materials were "declassified." Some Republicans who support the former president quickly denounced the search, calling it "politically motivated," a "weaponization" of federal law enforcement and more like what one might see in a "banana republic" than in the U.S.

Hutchinson, a former U.S. attorney, is taking a different approach by defending the FBI. He said in the CNN interview that he hopes other Republicans will hold off on characterizing the search as anything but a lawful part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

"We need to pull back on casting judgment on them," Hutchinson, 71, said. He acknowledged, however, that as a U.S. attorney who's worked with various federal law enforcement agencies, he's seen instances when "higher-ups in the FBI" have "made mistakes."

Still, he defended the agents who conducted the search of Trump's home. "We cannot say that, whenever they went in and did that search, that they were not doing their job as law enforcement officers," Hutchinson said.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday he approved the decision to request the search warrant from a judge as a last resort in the investigation into alleged mishandling of White House documents — some of which were thought to be related to nuclear weapons, according to a report by The Washington Post.

Asa Hutchinson, Donald Trump
Asa Hutchinson and Donald Trump. Alex Wong/Getty; Win McNamee/Getty

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"If you want to hold people accountable, it is the Department of Justice," Hutchinson told CNN. "It is the attorney general, who said he supervised that. The FBI is simply carrying out their responsibilities under the law, a lawful search warrant that a magistrate to signed off on."

As threats against agents proliferated on extremist, far-right corners of the web since the FBI executed the warrant at Trump's home, the governor pushed for elected officials to reconsider public criticism of the agency.

"Let's support law enforcement. Let's stand with them. Whether it's the DEA, the FBI, or your local law enforcement," Hutchinson said. "That's critically important that we do that, because they're simply trying to do their job and to keep anarchy away from our country."

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