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Republican leaders’ open defiance last week of the FBI over the release of a hotly disputed memo revealed how the GOP, which has long positioned itself as the party of law and order, has become an adversary of federal law enforcement as the party continues its quest to protect President Trump from the Russia investigation.

The FBI, the Justice Department and other agencies are now under concerted assault by Republicans, facing allegations of corruption and conspiracy that have quickly moved from the fringes of the right into the mainstream of the GOP.

Republicans in Congress insist that their efforts are meant to fulfill their duty to provide oversight of the executive branch and root out suspected bias. But critics say their campaign — to “cleanse” the FBI, in the words of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) — has been clearly orchestrated to safeguard the president and undercut the Russia probe, which includes an examination of whether Trump or his associates have sought to obstruct justice.

“It’s an extraordinary moment,” said Steve Schmidt, a strategist on George W. Bush’s and John McCain’s presidential campaigns who opposes Trump. “The party has become completely unmoored from things that it held as close to sacred until very recently, including a fidelity to the country’s security institutions.”

Once the party of law and order, Republicans are now challenging it

In a push to defend Trump and undermine the Russia probe, Republicans open attacks on federal law enforcement agencies that they once venerated.


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