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New Hampshire Republican Senate hopefuls trash FBI, 2020 election results on debate stage

NBC News 8/15/2022 Ben Kamisar and Bridget Bowman

Republican candidates in a New Hampshire Senate primary debate over the weekend raced to the right, casting doubt on the 2020 election and discrediting the FBI after the recent search of former President Donald Trump's home.

Speaking at a debate sponsored by the Government Integrity Project, a conservative group, retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, cryptocurrency investor Bruce Fenton and former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith all raised unfounded doubts about the last presidential election. None would affirmatively say that they knew who won the 2020 election — President Joe Biden won the election and numerous court cases and audits have not uncovered information that challenge that fact.

Fenton said that "we can’t tell what’s true,” but he knows there was “a lot of fraud” during the election; Smith said “it’s very unlikely that Joe Biden got 81 million votes” and said he’d support investigations into the 2020 election if elected; and Bolduc said “I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying Trump won the election, and damn it, I stand by [it].”

Fenton called to abolish the FBI, citing the decision to serve a search warrant on Trump amid and the decades-old campaign to discredit Martin Luther King Jr as examples of what he described as the agency's abuses.

"They've been harassing Martin Luther King, people on the left, people on the right, for far too long. I think we should abolish the FBI and replace it with nothing," Fenton said. He also agreed with one moderator’s question about whether the bureau should be labeled a domestic terror group.

Smith attempted to defend the "fine, very good men and women, agents at much lower levels" as he criticized the FBI leadership and floated the need for a congressional investigation into the FBI, while Bolduc said that: "The first question we have to ask is, do we still need the FBI? If we answer that question no, then get rid of them," or if it's kept, it should be reformed.

Those attacks are similar to the manner in which many Republicans have criticized the FBI in the days after search warrant was served. Both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are warning that threats against law enforcement have spiked since the search.

Bolduc and Fenton also said they support repealing the 17th Amendment, which allowed for the direct election of senators. Before that amendment was enacted, state legislators chose who would represent the state in the Senate.  

Not on the stage — state Sen. Chuck Morse and entrepreneur Vikram Mansharamani, two other Republican candidates in the race.

The winner of September's GOP primary will face off against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.

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