Republican conspiracy theories about the FBI take a weird turn

Thanks to an unsealed search warrant, we know how and why the FBI obtained a court-approved search warrant for Mar-a-Lago. In fact, Justice Department officials specifically noted the relevant crimes it believes may have been committed, pointing to the Espionage Act, the Presidential Records Act, and alleged obstruction of justice.

But according to a surprising number of Republicans, that might have been little more than a ruse. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, for example, argued a couple of weeks ago, “I actually think it had little to nothing to do with classified documents. What this was about was Jan. 6.”

Ordinarily, it’d be a fairly important development for a sitting senator — and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee — to effectively accuse the FBI of lying to a judge in order to improperly obtain a search warrant, but since much of the political world understands that Cruz just says things, this went largely unnoticed.

Earlier this week, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, a long time fan of some rather unusual conspiracy theories, went down a similar road, telling Fox News she believes the Justice Department was actually looking for “a little bit of a distraction” from gas prices. She didn’t appear to be kidding.

But as unusual as it was to see sitting GOP senators raise such allegations out loud, leave it to Donald Trump to go a step further. Newsweek noted:

Former President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he believes the FBI and Department of Justice raided his Mar-a-Lago residence to look for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails. During an interview with the Wendy Bell radio show, Trump spoke about the recent raid at his Florida residence and said, “I think they were looking for Hillary Clinton’s emails.”

No, really, that’s what he said.

Even for him, this was amazing. Sure, the FBI went to a court for a search warrant and pointed to a series of important statutes. But maybe the FBI was actually expecting to find emails belonging to the former secretary of state — who left office a decade ago, and who lives 1,200 miles away — at her former rival’s glorified country club.

The former president added, “I think they thought, and who knows, you know, boxes full of stuff. I think they thought, there was something to do with the Russia, Russia, Russia hoax. They were afraid that things were in there, part of their scam material — because that’s what they are, they’re scammers.

“And they were thinking, things were in there, having to do with, can you imagine? Hillary.”

To the extent that reality still has meaning, the Russia scandal wasn’t a hoax; the FBI isn’t looking for Clinton emails; and no sane person would expect to find Clinton emails at Mar-a-Lago.

As for the FBI, I can’t help but wonder how one of the most politically conservative institutions in the federal government feels about prominent Republicans routinely accusing the bureau of rampant corruption and dishonesty.