A former FBI agent discusses threats against the agency since the search of Trump’s home

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and its agents have become targets of threats after the agency conducted a court-approved search of former President Trump's estate. Much of the heated rhetoric has come from Trump and his allies. One man has already been killed by law enforcement for trying to storm an Ohio field office. Retired Special Agent Frank Montoya joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation and its agents have become targets of threats in the days since the agency carried out a court-approved search of former President Donald Trump's estate.

    Much of the heated rhetoric has come from Trump himself and his allies. And, already, one man was killed by law enforcement after attempting to storm a field office in Cincinnati, Ohio.

    Here with me now to discuss all of this is retired Special Agent Frank Montoya, who served 26 years in the FBI.

    Frank Montoya, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    We have been planning to talk to you for a couple of days based on threats that we saw out there. But I just have to share that, just in the last hour or so, on this Friday afternoon, former President Trump has posted on social media strong comments

    And I'm just going to quote from some of them. He refers to what he calls atrocities being perpetrated by the FBI and the DOJ. He says: "The law enforcement of our country has become that of a Third World nation and I do not believe that people will stand for it. Never in our country's history has there been a time where law enforcement has been so viciously and violently involved in the life and times of politics in our nation. They have no shame. They are destroying our country."

    Has there been anything like this before in the history of the FBI?

  • Frank Motoya Jr., Former FBI Official:


    I cannot think of any instance in my lifetime or even before then in the history of the FBI where something like was so egregiously foisted upon them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you account for what's happened here? Because there was the search of former President Trump's estate in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. There was a court-approved warrant for that search.

    And yet the president and his allies, his supporters have ever since then come down with a steady stream of attacks and threats on the FBI.

  • Frank Motoya Jr.:

    Well, I think what it reveals is that there's a lot of concern amongst his inner circle and amongst — with him, in particular, about how close this investigation is getting to the truth.

    The things that he's been saying all along, whether there was planted evidence, or that he had this unequivocal, unadulterated ability to declassify, or to just outright attack the men and women of the FBI, who are doing their jobs, who are responding to allegations from outside, reacting to it with a search warrant, and then, again, doing their jobs, collecting the evidence and removing that documentation.

    And it really suggests that he's worried about what they're what they're finding, not what they will find, what they are finding, and what will happen next as far as potential prosecution.

    So, yes, he's running scared. That's what it sounds like.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, the language has become, I mean, just — I mean, to say over the top is an understatement.

    There are — we have seen quotes where they have written about killing the enemy. Steve Bannon, who's a longtime adviser to the former president, has talked about the FBI is like the Gestapo and talking about, we're at war.

    How do — I mean, you have been in contact, I know, with — you have many friends in the bureau. How are they seeing all this? How are they — how do they — how are they taking it in?

  • Frank Motoya Jr.:

    Well, it ticks them off.

    I mean, they're trying to deal with it, take it in stride. Addressing threats, dealing with threats on a daily basis is what they do. But what really concerns them is the input, the possible or potential impact that this can have on family members, especially with their kids getting ready to go back to school, and with their colleagues, the intelligence analysts and the support personnel, who don't carry weapons for a living.

    It really is making for a difficult work environment. Now, they're going to continue to do what they do. They're going to press forward. They're going to uphold their oath to support and defend the Constitution, to uphold the rule of law.

    But, at the same time, we are in — I don't like to use this word. I don't think many people do. But we are in unprecedented times, because they truly are. We're looking at words coming out, not just out of his mouth, but other so-called responsible leaders in this country, who are constantly bashing individuals, professionals who are doing their jobs on a daily basis to the best of their abilities, following the rule of law.

    And in addition to the threats that those words pose to them, it also undermines the very efforts that they're supposed to that — that they're attempting to uphold. It really — it's an attack on the Constitution, as much as it is on these agents that are really working hard to uphold it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that's a question I wanted to get to, because how is it possible for the agency to do its job when you have more and more of the American people who the FBI and DOJ, Department of Justice are serving not having confidence in the — not just not having confidence in them, but thinking they are the enemies of the people?

  • Frank Motoya Jr.:


    So, that's a really terrible side effect of all of this nonsensical rhetoric, that people are questioning the very reasons that the FBI exists. It's not just about questioning their honesty and integrity, but their reason for existing.

    And there was a time when most Americans, many Americans, they looked at the rule of law and they looked at the Constitution as something worth upholding, as something that could be upheld. And, right now, with all of this negative language that's out there, all this negative rhetoric is really causing even normal, regular people, my neighbors, to question whether or not the FBI is doing what it's supposed to do, as opposed to acting like a rogue agency.

    And the fact of the matter is, nothing could be farther from the truth about that rogue nature, about the adjectives, the words and descriptions that the former president is using to describe really good people, who are just like your neighbors, your — the folks that live in your community, whose children go to your schools, where they're just doing their jobs, reacting to the circumstances of our current environment, and doing it in the best way possible, at the same time, taking care of themselves and, more importantly, their friends and families.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, well, we are going to leave it there. We certainly are continuing to watch this as it develops, and, again, with these new comments today from the former president.

    Frank Montoya, who served in the FBI for 26 years, thank you very much.

  • Frank Montoya Jr.:

    Thank you.

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