Not long after FBI agents searched his home in Mar-a-Lago on Monday, Donald Trump unveiled a new video casting him as the best person to once again lead the world’s preeminent superpower.
“It’s time to talk greatness for our country again,” the former president says in the campaign-style ad, repeating the slogan that landed him a first term in office after sharing a list of what he saw as American failures in the United States. calls months. since he left office.
For Mr. Trump, who has long presented himself as the antidote to an untrustworthy establishment, the questions about the legality of his behavior raised by the FBI action did little to diminish the prospects of another run for the presidency.
Perhaps they have achieved the opposite.
“The actions on their faces seem so blatantly political that, knowing President Trump, I think they would clearly inspire him to want to run again,” Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary under Mr. Trump, said in a statement on Tuesday. interview.
Mr. Trump “will view this as an attempt to stop him and his agenda — and realize that the only way he can fight back is to actually jump back into the political arena,” Mr Spicer said.
Analysis: FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home unprecedented yet predictable
Opinion: Donald Trump’s rendezvous with reality may be approaching soon
Legal experts said it’s unlikely the FBI would get a search warrant for a search of Mr. Trump’s Florida home without extraordinary justification. But in the absence of public information about what led to the federal action, Mr. Trump quickly became the object of a chorus of Republican support. Candidates and party leaders condemned what they called an abuse of power by the White House of Joe Biden — which said it had no prior knowledge of the search — and promised a retaliatory investigation into Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump found among voters a new asset to a political persecution narrative that he has long used as a foil against allegations of wrongdoing.
The FBI’s search for Mar-a-Lago amounts to a “witch hunt they’re doing on him,” said Linny Horrocks, 69, a retired railroad worker from Gering, Neb., who left for Cheyenne, Wyo on Tuesday. traveled to have his car repaired.
He said the raid was orchestrated by the Democratic Party and corrupt judicial officials to damage Mr Trump’s 2024 prospects. “Democrats don’t want him to run again, so they’re trying to find a reason to stop him,” he said. .
“I’d vote for him if he’s in again,” Mr. Horrocks said.
Support for Mr Trump remains strong, even among those who are convinced that he made mistakes. There’s little reason to continue the investigation into Mr. Trump on Jan. 6, as it’s already clear he didn’t intervene when rioters took over the Capitol, said Lynn Dreher, a 70-year-old retired diesel mechanic and bar singer. while playing a slot machine at the Outlaw Saloon on the south side of Cheyenne.
“They already know he’s guilty,” Mr. Dreher said. “He didn’t stop the boys from going in there and rioting.” Nevertheless, Mr. Dreher declared Mr. Trump the “best president ever” because he “brought back a whole slew of jobs.”
“He’s better than this clown we have now,” Mr. Dreher added, referring to Mr. Biden.
Mr Trump’s support for years has defied the revelations that have scuttled other political leaders. He won office despite the publication of lewd and misogynistic comments. His approval ratings were little changed by two accusations. Public blame for his role in the January 6 events has also abated. A year after the riots, the Pew Research Center showed that the percentage of Americans who said Mr Trump was not responsible had risen to 34 percent, from 24 percent immediately after the event.
On Saturday, after months of further revelations from the Jan. 6 committee, which made compelling statements about Mr Trump’s complicity in the Capitol riots, the former president won a round of election at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas, with 69 percent of the vote. those who voted said they would choose him as their next candidate, far ahead of the 24 percent who expressed support for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Trump’s supporters are “virtually locked up and impervious to evidence,” said George C. Edwards III, an emeritus political scientist at Texas A&M University who is the author of Change your mind?: Donald Trump and presidential leadership. The FBI’s search “will only reinforce their view that either the deep state or the establishment — or however you want to characterize it — is simply anti-Trump.”
“It may boost his chances of winning the nomination, which were pretty good anyway. Because it rekindles the passion for him,” said Prof. Edwards.
Those who have remained loyal to Mr Trump now have little reason to change their minds, said Julie Wronski, a political scientist at the University of Mississippi who has written about the roots of support for the former president.
“You’ve been defending Trump’s behavior for years. You create these worldviews and these identities and you work very hard psychologically to maintain them,” she said. “So facts don’t change feelings.”
Republican agents wasted little time seeking political and financial gain, with a fundraising email from the Republican National Committee complaining that “Biden’s FBI raided President Trump’s beautiful Florida home” , and another from Mr Trump’s team said, “The lawlessness, political persecution and witch-hunts must be exposed and stopped.”
The FBI has not made any public comment on the search, and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden had not received any prior notice. “The President and the White House learned of this FBI search from public reports,” she said Tuesday.
Jacob Frenkel, a former US federal prosecutor who worked on political corruption cases, said the search takes the US justice system into “uncharted territory.”
“The reason for using a warrant was probably the strong belief that filing a document request or even a subpoena would lead to non-compliance or possible destruction of documents,” he said.
Officials have told US media the search was linked to an investigation into Mr Trump’s handling of classified information. That claim runs counter to Mr Trump’s claim that he was the target, Mr Frenkel said.
“It is not about selective application of the law. We are talking about applying a law that applies directly to the President of the United States and does not apply to most average people.”
Right-wing media nonetheless dismissed the FBI search as an act of institutional warfare against Mr. Trump, and a dark omen. “The Biden government or intelligence agencies have nowhere else to go but do this to you,” warned Steven Crowder, a broadcaster with 5.69 million subscribers on YouTube.
“If a Republican comes in, investigate everyone, raid everyone,” he added. “Use it all. I don’t care if we become Nicaragua right now.” Mr. Crowder then turned to an interview with Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s former attorney.
The FBI search, Mr. Giuliani said, broke an unwritten rule against investigations of former presidents, a practice that, he said, “has kept us a democracy — and kept us unlike a fascist state.”
Mr Trump has said federal agents broke into a safe.
But Mr. Giuliani said it wasn’t the first time FBI agents came to Mar-a-Lago. Officers first arrived several weeks ago and “searched the entire place,” he said. The FBI then locked the room with a padlock, he said.
“They just went and broke the padlock they put there — they lost the key,” he said.
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