Biden ‘rejects’ defunding the FBI amid calls from some Republicans
The pushback marks the White House’s most aggressive response to the FBI’s search to date and comes as other Republicans, including former Vice President Mike Pence, are sounding alarms on this message amid heightened threats to law enforcement.
“Just like President Biden rejects defunding the police, he rejects defunding other law enforcement, including the FBI,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement exclusively to CNN Wednesday.
“The President has called for boosting police funding through the COPS program and hiring 100,000 additional officers. He also included over $10.8 billion for the FBI in his most recent budget. The men and women who bravely serve in law enforcement to keep all of us safe deserve the resources and support that they need to do their jobs – not seeing their budgets slashed,” he said.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain blasted the calls to defund the FBI as “a reckless and irresponsible idea,” in an interview on CNN’s “Don Lemon Tonight” on Wednesday.
It’s similar to a tactic taken by some progressive Democrats who campaigned on defunding the police in response to police brutality as the Black Lives Matter movement gained national momentum. Biden has consistently distanced himself from that stance, reiterating his support for law enforcement on the campaign trail and since taking office.
Other Republicans have similarly cautioned against the message, foreseeing dissonance with voters ahead of the midterm elections from a party that has strongly aligned itself as pro-law enforcement.
“I just want to remind my fellow Republicans, we can hold the AG accountable for the decision he made without attacking rank-and-file law enforcement personnel at the FBI,” former Vice President Mike Pence said at an event in New Hampshire Wednesday.
“The Republican Party is the party of law and order. Our party stands with the men and women who serve on the thin blue line at the federal and state and local level and these attacks on the FBI must stop. Calls to defund the FBI are just as wrong as calls to defund the police,” Pence added.
And Rep. Mike Turner, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, called statements in support of defunding law enforcement “outrageous.”
The bureau, along with the Department of Homeland Security, also has issued a joint intelligence bulletin warning of “violent threats” against federal law enforcement, courts and government personnel and facilities.
On Tuesday, an organization representing thousands of retired FBI special agents slammed attacks on the bureau and called for government leadership to condemn those efforts.
“Unfounded and reckless attacks on the men and women of the FBI as they pursue [their] mission is both dangerous and unacceptable,” the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI said in a statement. “Recent threats to FBI personnel and facilities only serve to increase the potential for violence and must be denounced by this nation’s leaders.”
Klain told CNN that “everyone should be concerned about the possibility of violence, about the threats against law enforcement.”
“The President’s made it very clear that threats of political violence have no place in our country. They had no place in our country on January 6, they have no place in our country, every day since then, they have no place in our country if they’re directed against law enforcement at any time. So [Biden’s] position on political violence is very clear, and we are certainly not for defunding the FBI,” he said.
After an attempted attack on an FBI field office last week in Cincinnati, Ohio, Vice President Kamala Harris condemned attacks on law enforcement and similar political rhetoric.
“It’s just highly irresponsible of anyone who calls themselves a leader and certainly anyone who represents the United States of America to engage in rhetoric for the sake of some political objective that can result in harm to law enforcement officers and agents,” she told reporters aboard Air Force Two.
This story has been updated with additional reaction.
CNN’s Josh Campbell, Jessica Schneider, Donie O’Sullivan, Paul P. Murphy, Priscilla Alvarez, and Alex Rogers contributed to this report.