Conservative Christian leaders have denounced the Federal Bureau of Investigation's raid on former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, claiming the action was politically motivated.
FBI agents raided Trump's home on Monday, reportedly searching for classified documents that the former president was supposed to turn over to the National Archives. The former president announced the raid on his residence and safe, calling it an unfair action spurred by the Justice Department and Democrats to hurt his 2024 chances.
As Trump gained the support of many conservative Evangelical leaders during his presidency, many of whom were invited to the White House on several occasions, several Evangelicals pastors voiced their displeasure with the raid on social media.
Jentezen Franklin, a megachurch pastor and bestselling author, posted a statement on his Instagram page Tuesday saying he is "deeply disturbed over the raid of a former president's home."
"If the goal of the current administration was to further divide this country then that mission was accomplished with the weaponization of the DOJ and the FBI," Franklin, the pastor of the Free Chapel in Georgia, stated.
"The American people are not blind to political bias and injustice and they witnessed both with this unprecedented act of cowardice."
Franklin, who was among groups of pastors who attended events at the Trump White House, claimed that the raid was a "federal abuse of power" that only occurred because of Trump's "political ideologies and his opposition to woke policies and values."
"If you are like me, you cannot wait for November to vote this failed and incompetent leadership out of office all across the nation," he concluded.
Tony Perkins, a Baptist pastor and the president of the Washington, D.C.-based conservative Christian advocacy group the Family Research Council, took to his Twitter account to express his opposition to the Mar-a-Lago raid.
"Who trusts the FBI to pursue justice?" asked Perkins. "The agency has become so politicized that even if their actions were justified half the nation still would not trust them."
The Rev. Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, believes the FBI and DOJ risk losing credibility again.
Graham, the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham, referenced the 1992 Ruby Ridge incident, in which an FBI sniper shot and killed the wife of a man believed to have been tied to violent white supremacists, sparking outrage.
"Thirty years ago the FBI lost a lot of credibility over the unfortunate events that surrounded Ruby Ridge. Last night as we watched the events that unfolded at Mar-a-Lago, I couldn't help but think that the FBI and DOJ are losing credibility and the trust of the American people again," Graham wrote.
"I have no idea what was in former President Trump's safe, but if the government thought there was something there that belonged to them, they certainly could have asked for it."
Graham insisted that "politics has entered into the FBI, the DOJ, and even the IRS," expressing concern over the recent news that the IRS is hiring around 87,000 new personnel.
"It is an issue of freedom — as Americans we are losing our freedoms. Our nation has become so corrupt politically and morally. We need to repent and turn from our sins and call on the name of God, asking for His forgiveness," he continued.
"We need changes in leadership. We need men and women who respect Biblical principles and values to run for office at the local, state, and national level."
Described by the Associated Press as "unprecedented," the raid was approved by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. The White House claims to have been unaware of the raid until after it had begun.
"The President learned about this just like you all did, through the public reports. And we learned about this just like the American people did," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing.
"This is a criminal investigation that the Department of Justice is independently running. We will leave it to them to speak to this."
In response to the claims of politicizing the FBI, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi noted that FBI Director Christopher A. Wray was appointed by Trump in 2017.
"The FBI director was appointed by Donald Trump," said Pelosi, as quoted by the AP. "Facts and truth, facts and law, that's what it's about."
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., stated that if Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in the upcoming midterm elections, they will launch an investigation into the "weaponized politicization" of the Justice Department.
"I've seen enough. The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization," McCarthy said. "When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned."
"Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar," McCarthy added.
In his statement, Trump compared the raid on his residence to the 1972 Watergate scandal, "where operatives broke into the Democrat National Committee."
"Hillary Clinton was allowed to delete and acid wash 33,000 E-mails AFTER they were subpoenaed by Congress. Absolutely nothing has happened to hold her accountable. She even took antique furniture, and other items from the White House," Trump added.
People familiar with the discussions surrounding the raid told The Washington Post Wednesday that federal authorities had grown increasingly concerned that Trump or his aides had not returned all documents and material that were government property.
According to the anonymous sources, officials were suspicious after Trump handed over 15 boxes to the National Archives seven months ago that either Trump or those close to him held onto important documents. According to two sources familiar with the situation who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, National Archives made attempts to contact Trump's team to demand the return of documents believed to be covered by the Presidential Records Act.
A Trump lawyer confirmed that agents acting on a judge-approved warrant took about 12 more boxes of documents after conducting their search.