WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League criticized Newt Gingrich for comparing the federal agents who raided the offices of an associate of President Donald Trump to the Nazis’ secret police.
ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said Thursday that the comparison was especially egregious on the eve of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Gingrich spoke Wednesday on the Fox News Channel about this week’s raid on the office and living quarters of Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who he said “had the door taken off of the hinges at 6 in the morning.”
“That’s Stalin. That’s the Gestapo in Germany. That shouldn’t be the American FBI,” said Gingrich, an early backer of Trump. Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is close to Jewish Republicans.
Greenblatt responded in a statement the following day.
“Newt Gingrich’s remarks comparing the Justice Department’s actions in executing a search warrant to ‘the Gestapo in Germany’ are deeply offensive, especially coming on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we recall the campaign of Nazi atrocities against the Jewish people,” he said. “There’s simply no comparing the actions of the Gestapo with America’s criminal justice system. This is an inappropriate trivialization of history.”
Federal agents raided Cohen’s properties this week, reportedly seeking evidence that he paid for the silence of women who allegedly had extramarital relations with Trump. The payments are potentially unreported and illegal contributions to Trump’s election campaign.
Gingrich also complained about the predawn raid of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s home last year.
“We’ve now had Paul Manafort and his wife in their pajamas at 3 in the morning having the FBI break down the door,” Gingrich said.
The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication, fact-checked Gingrich’s claims. In addition to concluding that likening U.S. federal agents to the Gestapo “is not remotely close to resembling any sort of accuracy,” the Standard said that the FBI picked Manafort’s lock and did not break down the door, and that in Cohen’s case, federal agents knocked on the door at 7:30 a.m., not 6 a.m. Additionally, Cohen said they were “courteous.”
Gingrich drew criticism from Jewish historians and reporters.
“Executing a valid Rule 41 warrant signed by a federal judge based on probable cause is like ‘the Gestapo in [Nazi] Germany,’ Gingrich says, in one of the more awkward references to the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah,” Orin Kerr, a law professor at the University of Southern California, said on Twitter.
Kerr on Thursday posted a thread about his own family’s flight from Nazi Europe.
Also weighing in on Twitter was Jake Sherman, the reporter who co-authors the influential daily Politico briefing, Playbook.
“Today is holocaust remembrance day,” he posted Thursday. “Nazi secret police took people of my faith to death camps across eastern Europe. Families were destroyed. a generation of Jews died. The FBI raid was actually nothing at all like Nazi secret police.”
Gingrich appeared, in his own Twitter posting, to be nonplussed by the outrage.
“Why do people defend three am FBI raid on non-violent couple in their pajamas?” he asked. “How would YOU feel if you woke up to armed men in bedroom?”