Republicans pounce on FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago to solicit campaign funds

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/Reuters

Republican and rightwing groups have swiftly used the FBI raid on Donald Trump’s winter home at Mar-a-Lago in Florida to raise money from their supporters by bombarding them with fundraising emails and appeals for donations.

In public the former US president, his allies and nearly all senior Republicans have expressed deep outrage at the raid, which is linked to Trump apparently keeping classified documents at Mar-a-Lago from his time in the White House. But the same figures have also seen the moment as a clear opportunity to urge supporters to dig deep into their pockets.

Most of the emails followed a common script: outrage at the raid, warnings of political persecution, the lawlessness and overreach of Democrats and the Biden administration. Each concluded with an invitation to make a donation.

“MAR-A-LAGO was RAIDED,” Trump texted his supporters on Tuesday morning. “The Radical Left is corrupt. Return the power to the people! Will you fight with me? Donate.”

Trump’s pick for Senate in Ohio, JD Vance, offered: “This is NOT a DRILL. Joe Biden is ATTACKING President Trump for STANDING UP for US, It’s time we show we have President Trump’s back! Act here.” The message provided a link to donate.

The language used in the fundraisers was stark. The National Republican Senatorial Committee called the raid “unprecedented” while the Trump fundraiser warned of “dark times for our Nation”.

“Biden’s FBI raided President Trump’s beautiful Florida home,” the Republican National Committee wrote in another email. “Hard to believe it but it’s true.”

The motivation was clear: maximizing resources for November’s midterm elections that the Republicans are widely expected to do well in. The Republican national committee chair, Ronna McDaniel, told Fox News on Tuesday, “We have to take the reins of power back. The only way we can stop them is by winning back the House and the Senate.”

“It’s safe to say this will be used as fundraising tool and useful for fundraising messaging,” says Sheila Krumholz, executive director of Open Secrets. “Every ask has some level of response, so it stands to reason that such an unusual and unprecedented search would be compelling for Trump’s base.”

Trump remains the Republican party’s most influential voice, despite inroads on his dominance in national political presence and fundraising by the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis. Trump’s Save America political action committee, launched after losing the 2020 election, has $100m in the bank.

Trump’s political committees raised about $18m between April and June, about $2m less than in the prior three months, according to a recent Reuters report, leading to commentators suggesting a waning of his influence.

Trump’s spokesperson, Taylor Budowich, has reportedly disputed any slowdown, saying Trump was “raising money at an unparalleled pace” and that “any suggestion otherwise is just a tired case of bias narrative peddling by the Fake News”.

Either way, the FBI raid could reverse that drift.

“I would expect to see a fundraising bump from this, but I don’t know if it would be lasting,” Krumholz said. “It depends a lot on the news to follow, other candidates raising their hands and become news items themselves.”

But Democrats too have jumped on the bandwagon and have used the FBI raid to work their own messaging. Democratic groups, including American Bridge and Never Again, have praised the justice department and the FBI, and followed that with appeals for contributions.

“We’re excited for his web of lies to unravel and for him and his friends to be brought to justice,” Never Again wrote. Then came a request for a $10 donation. But Democratic candidates have already seen a significant jump in donations after the supreme court’s reversal of Roe v Wade, with Democratic candidates in state attorney general races outstripping Republican rivals.

“I do not expect a huge bump to Dems, although it does seem to play into the momentum that has turned in the last few weeks,” one Democratic fundraising director told the Guardian. “People want to see justice done and are more likely to engage with politics if they see that happening.”

Other political figures have chimed in too, often to express concern that the FBI search will further divide an already deeply riven country.

“I’m no Trump fan. I want him as far away from the White House as possible,” said Andrew Yang, a founder of the newly minted centrist Forward party, in a Twitter thread. “A fundamental part of his appeal has been that it’s him against a corrupt government establishment. This raid strengthens that case for millions of Americans who will see this as unjust persecution.”

No one will be more keen to champion that narrative than Trump himself.

“As they watch my endorsed candidates win big victories and see my dominance in all polls, they are trying to stop the Republican Party and me once more,” Trump said in his fundraising email on Tuesday. “The lawlessness, political persecution, and Witch Hunt, must be exposed and stopped.”