ST. LOUIS —
The FBI's court-approved raid of Mar-a-Lago on Monday set off an instant flash of rage on the right, including from some of Missouri's leading Republicans.
Missouri's Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the GOP Senate nominee, tweeted on Monday that he would "take a wrecking ball to this overtly political DOJ" if he wins in November.
Later in the week, he appeared on the Fox News channel and accused the Biden administration of "weaponizing" the Justice Department.
In a separate Fox News interview on Wednesday, Senator Josh Hawley claimed the Biden administration "weaponized the FBI at every turn."
The day before, Hawley tweeted, "[U.S. Attorney General Merrick] Garland must resign or be impeached. The search warrant must be published."
That initial reaction to the stunning discovery that Donald Trump could face serious criminal charges eventually evolved when new information emerged.
"They seem to be a lot quieter. You're not hearing as much from the critics now as you did," independent Senate candidate John Wood said on Sunday. "I think the response from Eric Schmitt and others to attack the Justice Department and attack the career professionals at the FBI was totally inappropriate."
"That's entirely irresponsible and dangerous," Wood said. "I don't think there's anything conservative about attacking law enforcement."
Schmitt's Senate campaign did not return emails seeking comment.
A small group of protesters organized an 'F the FBI' demonstration outside an FBI field office in St. Louis on Sunday afternoon.
One of the ringleaders shouted into a megaphone that the court-approved search warrant was an insult to American military veterans.
"They didn't fight so that we'd have a regime coming in and raid the opposition candidate's home based on nothing," known conspiracy theorist Jim Hoft said.
"The idea that this whole thing is a hoax or that all of the agents were somehow in on planting something... it's just absolutely absurd," Wood said. "It's conspiracy theory at its worst."
5 On Your Side's political analyst Anita Manion cautioned the public to reserve judgment until more conclusive evidence comes to light.
"We want to wait and make these opinions based on the evidence," Manion said.
At first, she said the news of the raid drew a sharp reaction from Trump's most loyal supporters.
"The former President saw this almost as a positive thing to get people energized. He was fundraising off of it," Manion said.
She also noted a tamer tone coming from many Republican voices on Capitol Hill after the Attorney General delivered his remarks on Thursday.
"Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor," Garland said on Thursday.
Manion said, "as we've seen more information come out, that excitement or energy, at least from folks in office seems to have tamped down."
In the six days since federal agents executed the search warrant, the Justice Department sought the court's approval to release of the warrant. The document showed agents were looking for materials marked with top secret and classified labels.
Later, the New York Times reported Trump's lawyers may have misled the FBI when they said the classified information was already handed over. The Washington Post reported the materials pertained to nuclear secrets. Several other public reports claimed the Department of Justice obtained surveillance video they believed showed people removing boxes from storage before they could be retrieved.
On Sunday morning, House Republican and former FBI agent Brian Fitzpatrick urged his GOP colleagues against a rush to judgment or dangerous rhetoric. Fitzpatrick also argued a step this significant should come with an equally large dose of transparency. He's calling on the Attorney General to publish the affidavit itself, which could tell us a lot more about what exactly was in those boxes and how they were handled or moved while the government tried to take them back.
Protesters at Sunday's rally in St. Louis carried signs that called to defund the FBI. Manion suggested rhetoric that strong could backfire in a close midterm contest.
"The 'Defund the police' rhetoric did not seem to be a very winning strategy for the Democrats, and I certainly think that would be the same for the 'Defund the FBI.''