WASHINGTON – Republicans have come out swinging at Friday’s federal criminal indictment of former President Donald Trump.

But Lafayette Republican Congressman Clay Higgins took it one step further Thursday. In a cryptic tweet that prompted thousands of angry responses – and confusion – online, Higgins called the arraignment "a perimeter probe from the oppressors." He also used language interpreted by one author as a call for right-wing milita groups to mobilize in support of Trump when he is arraigned Tuesday in Miami.

Higgins tweeted Thursday night:

“President Trump said he has been summoned to appear at the Federal Courthouse in Miami on Tuesday, at 3 PM. This is a perimeter probe from the oppressors. Hold. rPOTUS has this. Buckle up. 1/50K know your bridges. Rock steady calm. That is all.”

Though Higgins did not respond to a request for clarification, author, journalist and professor Jeff Sharlet took his words as a call for war. Sharlet's latest book, "The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War," is an in-depth look at right-wing extremism. 

“Take this seriously,” Sharlet wrote Friday. “’Perimeter probe’: Higgins thinks indictment precedes bigger attack. ‘rPOTUS’: real POTUS, Trump. ‘Hold’: stand back & stand by. ‘Buckle up’: prepare for war. ‘1/50 k’: military scale maps (mostly publicly available that show nearby military installations). ‘Know your bridges’: militia speak for prepare to seize bridges.”

Sharlet continued: “This isn’t a metaphor. This isn’t slow civil war. This is a congressman calling for the real thing.”

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who is in charge of Republican representatives and head of the Louisiana delegation, did not respond Friday to a query seeking comment about Higgins’ comments.

But Scalise, R-Jefferson, tweeted: “Let’s be clear about what’s happening: Joe Biden is weaponizing his Department of Justice against his own political rival. This sham indictment is the continuation of the endless political persecution of Donald Trump.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, the Benton Republican who is fifth highest ranking Republican in the House, also did not respond Friday to a request for comment about Higgins’ message. But he too tweeted about the indictment: “The evidence of corruption against Joe Biden and his family is political scandal much larger than Watergate. And yet they are pursuing more bogus charges against President Trump!”

Even GOP candidates challenging Trump for the Republican presidential nomination – including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, of South Carolina – have criticized the federal government over the indictments against the former president.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told The Atlantic Monthly that that the indictments created “a dark day for the United States.” McCarthy said he would stand with Trump. “House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.”

McCarthy told CNN on Friday, “We are not going to stand for it.”

The federal indictments were unsealed Friday. Trump faces 37 counts, including willful retention of more than 300 sensitive national security documents. Trump kept information about U.S. defense and human sources, nuclear programs and foreign countries’ defenses, according to the criminal federal indictments. He allegedly stored the classified materials in bedrooms, bathrooms and a ballroom in the former president’s Florida home. He also is accused of sharing the information with two persons without security clearances.

“We have one set of laws in this country and they apply to everyone,” Jack Smith, the special counsel, said upon the release of the indictments.

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.