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Republicans rally around Trump following FBI raid of his estate

For much of the year, small cracks have grown in Donald Trump’s political support. Disgruntled Republican primary voters began to consider new presidential prospects. GOP donors struggled with damaging revelations discovered by the Jan. 6 commission. Several party leaders thought about challenging Trump for the party’s nomination in 2024. But after the FBI issued a search warrant on his Florida estate, the Republican Party quickly united behind the former president.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who probably represents Trump’s strongest potential primary challenger, described the Biden administration as a “regime” and called Monday’s Mar-a-Lago search for misappropriated classified documents “another escalation.” in arming federal agencies against the regimes. political opponents.”

The GOP’s push to portray Trump as the victim of a politicized Justice Department ignored the potential criminal misconduct that justified the search in the eyes of a federal judge. It ignored Trump’s role in hiring now-vilified FBI Director Chris Wray, who also served as a senior official at a Republican-led Justice Department. Biden’s White House, meanwhile, said it was not aware of the search.

But the robust defense serves as another reminder of the former president’s lasting hold on the GOP, driven by the ability of many Republican voters to use a sense of grievance against the government and other institutions. Trump took advantage of that hostility to overcome two charges and the fallout of an uprising. His allies said Tuesday that the FBI’s search would only strengthen his position.

“Trump just won the 2024 primaries,” said pro-Trump commentator Jack Posobiec.

The FBI search also seemed to trigger a shift among Trump’s advisers, who had personally urged him to wait until after the midterm elections to announce his intention to run for president again. Suddenly, some of those same advisers urged him to launch his campaign before the November election.

Trump sparked such speculation in the hours following the search by posting a campaign-style video on social media. “The best is yet to come,” he said.

He followed a fundraising appeal and made it personal by stating, “It’s important you know that it wasn’t just my home that was violated — it was the home of every patriotic American I fought for.”

In Columbia, South Carolina, Senator Lindsey Graham said he had spoken to Trump and was sure a new campaign was coming.

“I can tell you one thing,” Graham said. “I believed he would start running sooner. I am now stronger in my faith.”

While Republicans rallied behind Trump, Democrats pushed back against the GOP’s claims of political interference, without evidence. Some accused the GOP of a departure from its longstanding commitment to “law and order”.

“The FBI director has been appointed by Donald Trump,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

When asked if the raid could harm Democrats in the November election, she said: “You mean if the Justice Department decides to put in a warrant because they suspect something is warranted, it will have an impact.” have on the elections? No no no no no.”

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Some of Trump’s most outspoken Republican critics have still shied away from hugging the former president. And it was unclear how ordinary Republican voters and independents frustrated by Trump’s divisive leadership might be moved by the new developments.

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor and one of several Republicans considering a 2024 presidential bid, noted Tuesday that a federal judge had to sign the injunction.

“The former president is presumed innocent,” Christie said in an interview. “On the other hand, we cannot immediately challenge the prosecution’s motives because they are from a different political party.”

“It is an extraordinary action. And there may well be some pretty extraordinary facts behind it. If there are, they have every right to do it.”

And some other Republican officials seemed to express lingering concerns about Trump by not cooperating at all.

The relatively short list of those GOP leaders who remained silent on Tuesday afternoon was led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has privately encouraged his party to get past Trump. The Kentucky Republican declined to respond when asked to weigh in during a stoppage in his home state, which is reeling from devastating storms.

“I’m here today to talk about the flood and flood recovery,” McConnell said.

But the overwhelming majority — from Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to DeSantis — accused the Biden administration of “arming” the Justice Department and ignoring any potential wrongdoing by Trump.

“The GOP now fully embraces the idea that Trump should indeed be above the law and that Trump 2.0 will be a bonfire of revenge,” wrote Republican commentator Charlie Sykes, a frequent Trump critic.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is gearing up for a presidential run of his own, said he shared “the deep concern of millions of Americans” over the search of Trump’s private home.

However, he stopped attacking the FBI. Instead, he said Attorney General Merrick Garland “must fully account to the American people for why this action was taken and to do it immediately.”

Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri aggressively condemned the Justice Department on behalf of Trump.

Hawley called the search “an unprecedented attack on democratic standards and the rule of law.” He called for Garland’s firing or impeachment and the removal of FBI Director Wray.

Cotton said Garland had “armed” the Justice Department against his political enemies. “There will be consequences for this,” he warned.

Also of Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson, yet another Republican weighing 2024, called the search “unprecedented and alarming.” But like Pence, he added, “We need to see the affidavit of probable cause before making a judgment.”

The search intensified the months-long investigation into how classified documents ended up in boxes of White House records in Mar-a-Lago earlier this year. A separate grand jury is examining Trump’s and allies’ efforts to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election.

In late June, long before the latest development, 48% of American adults said Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Business Research.

Views on Trump’s criminal liability predictably dispersed along party lines, with 86% of Democrats and 10% of Republicans saying Trump should be indicted. Still, the fact that nearly half the country believed he should be prosecuted is a notable position for the former president, pointing to the difficulties he could face in another White House run.

Former Trump adviser Sam Nunberg said Monday’s FBI search would almost certainly bolster Trump’s position among Republican primary voters, especially those Republicans who were beginning to lean toward DeSantis or some other fresh-faced. But if Trump is ultimately indicted for a federal crime related to the search, as Nunberg said to be expected, the former president’s ability to win over a wider group of voters in the 2024 general election would be a major blow. can get.

“Despite the fantasies of everyone from Sean Hannity to Steve Bannon, I can promise you that anyone charged will not be elected president of the United States,” Nunberg said.

But on Tuesday, the Republican Party was at least fully behind Trump, its undisputed leader.

One of Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress, Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, seemed almost to thank the Justice Department for bringing her party together.

“I’ve talked a lot about the Civil War in the GOP and I support it because America needs fearless and effective Republicans to finally put America first,” she tweeted. “Last night’s tyrannical FBI raid on MAR brings us together in ways I’ve never seen before.”

(AP)

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