Why the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago is a gift for Donald Trump's 2024 election bid

·3 min read
Authorities outside Mar-a-Lago, the residence of former president Donald Trump, as the FBI execute a search warrant in Palm Beach, Florida - JIM RASSOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Authorities outside Mar-a-Lago, the residence of former president Donald Trump, as the FBI execute a search warrant in Palm Beach, Florida - JIM RASSOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Having the FBI raid your home is never a good thing, but for Donald Trump it may prove a blessing in disguise.

Mr Trump hasn't seen such an outpouring of support from senior Republicans in a long time, and the incident looked set to light a new political touch paper that could propel him to the party's presidential nomination in 2024.

The former US President is now, in the eyes of many Republicans who were shying away from him, the victim of an egregious attempt by a Democrat administration to politicise the justice system.

As one former Republican official put it, if Mr Trump is not now convicted of a crime, then "you've martyred him and guaranteed him the Republican nomination".

FBI agents are believed to have gone to Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida looking for potentially classified documents that may have been removed from the White House, in violation of the Presidential Records Act.

Mr Trump has already handed over to the National Archives 15 boxes of documents that ended up at Mar-a-Lago.

Mar-a-Lago office 'ransacked' by 'FBI agents'

Defending his father, Eric Trump said the documents at the centre of the investigation had simply been moved as the Trumps rushed to get out of the White House in "six hours" on Inauguration Day, so that the Bidens could move in.

He described how "30 FBI agents" descended on Mar-a-Lago, "ransacked" an office and opened a safe.

The chorus of backing for Mr Trump following the raid was led by Ron DeSantis, his closest rival for the Republican nomination in 2024.

Mr DeSantis said the unprecedented operation against a former president smacked of a "banana republic" and was "another escalation in the weaponisation of federal agencies against the regime’s political opponents".

Other senior Republicans called it "Third World country stuff" and "un-American".

Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, said it was "outrageous" and would spur the party's voters to the polls in the midterm elections in November.

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, vowed to respond by launching a congressional oversight investigation into the Justice Department itself.

Pouring fuel on the fire Mr Trump compared it to Watergate, when Republican operatives broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.

White House officials found out on Twitter

It was notable that the raid was publicly announced, not by the FBI or Justice Department, but by Mr Trump, who at the time was in New York.

Rather than trying to keep it quiet, he took control of the narrative, casting the raid as a Democrat-driven effort to keep him from winning another term in 2024.

It wasn't just prominent Republicans who echoed that sentiment.

Within minutes of Mr Trump issuing his lengthy statement about the raid supporters started gathering outside Mar-a-Lago.

White House officials quickly countered, saying they had known nothing about the raid and only found out about it on Twitter.

Joe Biden had not been told in advance by the Justice Department.

The White House officials also pointed out that Christopher Wray, the current FBI Director, was appointed by Mr Trump.

However, many Republicans, even some not supportive of Mr Trump, believed FBI agents raiding the home of a former president was a step too far, particularly with just three months until the midterm elections.

Chis Sweck, former assistant director of the FBI, said Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden had been treated in a "genteel" way by comparison over allegations against them.

He said: "We would never have approved a search warrant of a former president's residence, or a congressman, or anyone in public office, without some extreme justification.

"I don't know where this came from, it's absolutely wrong. My fairness meter is flashing red."