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Aug. 22, 2022, 8:14 a.m. EDT

Law-enforcement officials raise alarm that angry words from Trump and allies over Mar-a-Lago search are triggering real-world violence

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A man armed with an AR-15 dies in a shootout after trying to breach FBI offices in Cincinnati. A Pennsylvania man is arrested after he posts death threats against agents on social media. In cyberspace, calls for armed uprisings and civil war grow stronger.

This could be just the beginning, federal authorities and private extremism monitors warn. A growing number of ardent Donald Trump supporters seem ready to strike back against the FBI or others who they believe go too far in investigating the former president.

Don’t miss: Americans see threat to democracy as No. 1 issue, support Trump probe, poll finds

Law-enforcement officials across the country are warning and being warned about an increase in threats and the potential for violent attacks on federal agents or buildings in the wake of the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.

Experts who study radicalization and online disinformation — such as Trump’s aggressive false claims about a stolen election — note that the recent increase was sparked by a legal search of Trump’s Florida home. What might happen in the event of arrests or indictments?

“When messaging reaches a certain pitch, things start to happen in the real world,” said former New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer, a onetime federal prosecutor who now directs the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. “And when people in positions of power and public trust start to echo extremist rhetoric, it’s even more likely that we’re going to see real-world consequences.”

Amplified by right-wing media, angry claims by Trump and his allies about the search are fanning the flames of his supporters’ distrust of the FBI — though it’s led by a Trump appointee — and the federal government in general. And at least a few of Trump’s supporters now appear to be acting on his anger.

Last week a man wearing body armor and armed with an assault rifle and a nail gun tried to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati office . He was later shot and killed by police after exchanging fire with officers. Authorities say they believe the man had posted dark messages on Truth Social, Trump’s online platform, including one that said federal agents should be killed on sight.

See: Gunman slain after armed confrontation at FBI office in Cincinnati had been active on Trump social-media platform

Another man drove his car into a U.S. Capitol barricade Sunday and began firing gunshots into the air before he fatally shot himself.

See: Man rams U.S. Capitol barrier then kills himself, police say

On Monday, the Department of Justice announced the arrest of a Pennsylvania man who had made repeated threats on the lives on FBI agents on Gab, a platform popular with Trump supporters.

“You’ve declared war on us and now it’s open season on YOU,” he wrote in one post shared by authorities.

A joint intelligence bulletin from the FBI and Homeland Security warns about an increase in violent online threats targeting federal officials and government facilities. Those include “a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI headquarters,” along with calls for “civil war” and “rebellion,” according to a copy of the document obtained by the Associated Press.

Mentions of “civil war” on platforms including Facebook and Twitter increased tenfold in the hours immediately after last week’s search of Mar-a-Lago, according to an analysis by Zignal Labs, a firm that analyzes social media content.

Many of the posts contained baseless claims suggesting President Joe Biden ordered the FBI to search Trump’s home, or that the FBI planted evidence to incriminate Trump.

“Biden sending the FBI to raid a former President, Mr. Donald Trump’s home is a declaration of WAR against him and his supporters,” wrote one poster on the Telegram platform.

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