“Make trouble”: The House GOP wants to stop funding the FBI. One candidate for 2024 wants to close it down. What’s up?

House GOP wants to defund the FBI. Ramaswamy wants to shut it down.


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Because of the legal problems facing former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, the FBI has become a common target for Republican presidential candidates in 2024 and some House GOP members.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA, called for defunding the FBI on X, formerly known as Twitter after the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate for classified documents last year.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, have all said the same thing in recent months. This comes as federal and state investigations focus on Trump and House Republicans look into Hunter Biden’s business dealings abroad.

Some lawmakers have said that the FBI is being used as a “weapon” against conservatives and have asked Christopher Wray, who was put in charge of the FBI by Trump, to step down.

On the campaign trail, 37-year-old biotechnology entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy said he would shut down the FBI and replace it with a similar organization.

“I don’t think the FBI should be a thing,” Ramaswamy told USA TODAY. “I think that’s much more useful than it seems… I don’t think a place so set in its culture and way of doing things can be changed.

Here’s what politicians and lawyers say about how hard it would be to shut down or stop funding the FBI.

What would happen if the government stopped giving the FBI money or shut it down?
The federal agency, the FBI gets most of its money from Congress. Congress also reviews the FBI’s budget, programs, and some of its investigations.

David Super, a constitutional law expert at Georgetown University, says that cutting funding for it would mean that law enforcement would likely lose a lot of resources. He said that the FBI has the resources to go head-to-head with smart opponents like drug cartels, other types of organized crime, and foreign intelligence services that want to spy on the U.S.

“Other agencies could take over these tasks. “Depending on how that is done, the effectiveness loss could be big or small,” Super said.

Joan Meyer, a partner at the law firm Thompson Hine, said that the FBI helps state and county police when they are short-staffed and every minute counts, like when a child is taken. She said that if the FBI didn’t get money, these resources wouldn’t be there, and communities wouldn’t be as safe.

Neama Rahmani, a former U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutor, told USA TODAY that cutting off the FBI’s funding could also cause it to shut down.

Jonathan Entin, a law professor at Case Western Reserve, said that other agencies, like parts of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Treasury, also do law enforcement work. However, these agencies tend to be very specialized. He said that if the federal government cut funding for the FBI, it would probably have to replace it with another general law enforcement agency.

Marc Scholl, who worked as a prosecutor in New York, says that shutting down the agency would “put a lot of people out of work, mess up a lot of ongoing investigations, and slow down a lot of state criminal investigations that depend on FBI investigative resources and expertise.”

Wray was asked what would happen if the FBI lost its funding or was broken up at a hearing two weeks ago. Wray said there would be more violent criminals on the streets, more violent gangs terrorizing communities, more child predators on the loose, unanswered threats from the Chinese Communist Party, and other bad things.

Is it possible to stop the FBI from working? Why not change it?
Scholl said that it is perfectly legal to close down the FBI.

Scholl says that even though the preamble to the Constitution says that one of its goals is to “promote the general welfare,” the Constitution does not require an FBI or any other federal criminal investigation agency.

Entin said that it leaves the details of federal departments and agencies up to Congress, which makes them.

Scholl said that, in theory, Congress could give the FBI’s powers to a different agency or change the FBI’s powers about what crimes it can look into and how much money it can spend.

“For example, Congress could try to pass laws that don’t give the FBI the right to look into tax, gun, or drug crimes,” Scholl said. “Congress could also try to get rid of laws that it thinks shouldn’t have criminal consequences for people.”

But this kind of law wouldn’t pass unless the same party controlled the House and the Senate.

Super says this is not the first time a federal agency has been shut down. Congress has shut down many federal agencies, like the Civil Aeronautics Board, and reorganized the government on other occasions, like when it made the Department of Homeland Security out of parts of several other cabinet departments.

Could another agency take the place of the FBI?
Meyer said it wouldn’t be possible to replace the FBI because doing so would probably cause chaos and give criminals a chance to take advantage of the situation.

Meyer said, “There are over 37,000 employees who are working on thousands of cases.” “They could set up FBI-2, but it would take years to hire new people, and the cases would need help right away from qualified people. That would cause a lot of trouble. And that’s why it’s so silly to discuss cutting the FBI’s budget.”

Steven Smith, a professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis, agreed. He said a new agency “would have to take on most of the FBI’s employees, offices, and labs.”

Smith told USA TODAY, “There would be no other choice.” “If a new agency had to start from scratch, it would take a lot of time, maybe even a few decades, to replace the infrastructure and knowledge of law enforcement that the FBI has. Also, state and local police, relying on FBI information systems, labs, and other assets, would have difficulty doing their jobs.

Super said that if someone shuts down the FBI, ICE, or a local police department and then tries to hire a new staff, they will quickly find that many or most of the people with the skills and knowledge they need are the ones who were just fired from the agency that was shut down.

“They think that would be solved by starting a new agency that could hire new people,” Super said. “I’m not sure.”

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