Christopher Wray, who was appointed as the agency’s director in 2017 by Trump, called threats circulating online against federal agents and the Justice Department “deplorable and dangerous.”
“I’m always concerned about threats to law enforcement,” Wray said. “Violence against law enforcement is not the answer, no matter who you’re upset with.”
Wray made the remarks following a news conference during a long-planned visit to the agency’s field office in Omaha, Nebraska, where he discussed the FBI’s focus on cybersecurity. He declined to answer questions about the hours-long search Monday by FBI agents of Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida resort.
It has been easy to find the threats and a call to arms in those corners of the internet favored by right-wing extremists since Trump himself announced the search of his Florida home. Reactions included the ubiquitous “Lock and load” and calls for federal agents and even U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to be assassinated.
Brian Murphy, a former official at the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI who’s now an executive at the open source intelligence firm Logically, said his company has observed a large uptick in threats against FBI personnel and facilities on social media platforms since the Mar-a-Largo search.
Murphy told NBC News the threats were detected as part of Logically’s daily research into threats to election officials and operations. He said the threats against the FBI often contained references to violence against specific targets.
The online threats follow the same patterns the firm has seen in its election work, Murphy said, and are found either openly or underground on various platforms, including Telegram, Rumble, Gettr, and Gab.
Logically has identified threats against FBI individuals and facilities, and has provided the relevant information to law enforcement, he said.
“As an experienced intelligence official, I can say that I have never personally seen anything like the spike in threats seen in the past few days against FBI personnel and facilities, emerging amid already rising threats to election officials and infrastructure,” Murphy said.
On Gab — a social media site popular with white supremacists and antisemites — one poster going by the name of Stephen said he was awaiting “the call” to mount an armed revolution.
“All it takes is one call. And millions will arm up and take back this country. It will be over in less than 2 weeks,” the post said.
Another Gab poster implored others: “Lets get this started! This unelected, illegitimate regime crossed the line with their GESTAPO raid! It is long past time the lib socialist filth were cleansed from American society!”
The search of Trump’s residence Monday is part of an investigation into whether Trump took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence, according to people familiar with the matter. The Justice Department has been investigating the potential mishandling of classified information since the National Archives and Records Administration said it had received from Mar-a-Lago 15 boxes of White House records, including documents containing classified information, earlier this year.
Ken Dilanian contributed.