The FBI may be under attack from the Trump administration, but you wouldn't know it from a look at the funds set up to benefit FBI agents and their families. The FBI Agents Association has received $140,000 in donations to the group's two charities in the wake of Trump and his surrogates' attacks.
The group announced the big donations via Twitter, the same medium that inspired the generous giving in the first place. Benjamin Wittes, a journalist and personal friend of former FBI Director James Comey, wrote on Dec. 23 that he was going to donate, and many others followed suit. Wittes had written:
The President is impugning the integrity of the FBI by attacking two honorable public servants: Jim Baker and Andy McCabe. I just donated $1,000 to the @FBIAgentsAssoc in their names. I urge others to give as well and tweet that you did so to #thanksFBI.
Others gave to the tune of $140,000, the association wrote on Tuesday night. "This money will send the children of deceased Agents to college and help FBI families in need," the group posted with a link to a video detailing the projects that they work on. The video had been first been posted to YouTube in November and details some of the recipients of the financial help.
Wittes and all those who donated following his call were responding to a continued attack on the institution and its leaders by Trump. On Saturday, Trump attacked FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, writing on Twitter that he "is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!" Trump further accused him of supporting Hillary Clinton from an official email. He had been on Capitol Hill testifying the week before.
Trump also attacked James Baker, an attorney for the FBI. "Wow, ‘FBI lawyer James Baker reassigned,’ according to @FoxNews," Trump also sent out on Saturday. Reports show that Baker resigned after criticism that the agency had been politicized against the president. He and McCabe are the two public servants in whose names Wittes suggested making donations.
The attacks themselves are worrisome, even if the response in donations is so positive. One Watergate prosecutor called his attacks on the FBI obstruction of justice. Jill Wine-Banks who worked on the Nixon investigation said on MSNBC that the attacks are a threat to the investigation and to democracy.
"It is also a possible obstruction of justice, witness intimidation, and it's obstructing justice by saying to agents you better not dig too deep, you better not find anything because I will attack you," Wine-Banks said on the cable news network. "And this is the president of the United States, it is congressmen who have a national audience and can make people's lives miserable."
The success of the fundraiser was thanks to many on Twitter who retweeted the call and followed through. More than 6,000 people retweeted the tweet and 12,000 liked it. One of those was Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's Morning Joe.
"Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen," Wittes wrote on Twitter Tuesday evening. After the initial tweet, Wittes followed up with messages about others who had donated, including "senior intelligence community leadership."
Wittes also wrote over the last few days about the possibility of turning the donation response into an action that can be replicated any time that the president lashes out at a group or individual.
"The last 24 hours with POTUS tweets and the @FBIAgentsAssoc has given me an idea. I'm vamping here, and this may not work, but heck, it might work. So consider this a request for comment from the Twitterverse on a Proposal to Translate Malicious Trump Tweets into Public Goods," Wittes wrote.
The Twitterverse seems willing to collaborate.