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GOP Rallies Around Trump After FBI Raid08/10 06:01

   

   NEW YORK (AP) -- For much of the year, small cracks in Donald Trump's 
political support have been growing.

   Dissatisfied Republican primary voters began to consider new presidential 
prospects. GOP donors grappled with damaging revelations uncovered by the Jan. 
6 committee. S everal party leaders pondered challenging Trump for the party's 
2024 nomination.

   But after the FBI executed a search warrant at his Florida estate, the 
Republican Party unified swiftly behind the former president.

   Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who likely represents Trump's strongest potential 
primary challenger, described the Biden administration as a "regime" and called 
Monday's Mar-a-Lago search for improperly taken classified documents "another 
escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime's 
political opponents."

   The GOP 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 overlooked Trump's role in hiring 
now-vilified FBI Director Chris Wray, who also served as a high-ranking 
official in a Republican-led Justice Department. The Biden White House, 
meanwhile, said it had no prior knowledge of the search.

   But the robust defense serves as a fresh reminder of the former president's 
enduring grip on the GOP, driven by an ability to use a sense of grievance 
among many Republican voters toward government and other institutions. Trump 
tapped into that animosity to overcome two impeachments and the fallout from an 
insurrection. His allies said Tuesday that the FBI search would only strengthen 
his position again.

   "The sooner he kicks off his campaign, the better," Indiana GOP Rep. Jim 
Banks, the chair of the Republican Study Committee, said in an interview.

   Banks was among about a dozen Republican lawmakers who spent several hours 
Tuesday evening with Trump at his summer home in Bedminster, New Jersey. During 
a meal that included steak, scallops, mashed potatoes, salad and a Trump 
cookie, the group talked about the upcoming midterm elections and the 2024 
presidential race, Banks said.

   The former president told the lawmakers "his mind is made up" about a 2024 
campaign and "we'll all be happy with his decision."

   The FBI search seemed to trigger a shift among Trump's advisers, who had 
been privately urging him to wait until after the midterm elections to announce 
his intention to seek the presidency again. Suddenly, some of those same 
advisers were urging him to launch his campaign before the November elections.

   Trump stoked such speculation in the hours after the search by posting a 
campaign-style video on social media. "The best is yet to come," he said.

   He followed up with a fundraising appeal, making it personal by declaring 
"it's important that you know that it wasn't just my home that was violated -- 
it was the home of every patriotic American who I have been fighting for."

   In Columbia, South Carolina, Sen. Lindsey Graham said he spoke with Trump 
and felt sure another campaign was coming.

   "One thing I can tell you," Graham said. "I believed he was going to run 
before. I'm stronger in my belief now."

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

   "The FBI director was appointed by Donald Trump," said House Speaker Nancy 
Pelosi.

   Asked if the raid might hurt Democrats in the November elections, she said: 
"You're talking about if the Justice Department decides to have a warrant to go 
in because they suspect something is justified, it's going to have an impact on 
the election? No, no, no, no, no."

   Some of Trump's most vocal Republican critics still shied away from 
embracing the former president. And it was unclear how rank-and-file Republican 
voters and independents frustrated by Trump's divisive leadership might be 
moved by the new developments.

   Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor and one 
of many Republicans considering a 2024 presidential bid, noted Tuesday that a 
federal judge had to sign off on the warrant.

   "The former president is presumed innocent," Christie said in an interview. 
"On the other hand, we can't immediately impugn the motives of the prosecutors 
just because they're from another political party."

   "It's an extraordinary action. And there better be some pretty extraordinary 
facts to underlie it. If there are, then they have every right to do it."

   And some other Republican officials seemed to express continued concerns 
about Trump by refusing to weigh in at all.

   The relatively short list of those GOP leaders who remained silent Tuesday 
afternoon was led by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has 
privately encouraged his party to move past Trump. But the Kentucky Republican 
eventually weighed in, saying: "The country deserves a thorough and immediate 
explanation of what led to the events of Monday. Attorney General Garland and 
the Department of Justice should already have provided answers to the American 
people and must do so immediately."

   The overwhelming majority -- from House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to 
DeSantis, accused the Biden administration of "weaponizing" the Justice 
Department and ignored any potential wrongdoing by Trump.

   "The GOP now fully embraces the notion that Trump should, indeed, be above 
the law, and that Trump 2.0 will be a bonfire of vengeance," 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 concerns of millions of Americans" over 
the search of Trump's private residence.

   He stopped short of attacking the FBI, however. Instead, he said Attorney 
General Merrick Garland should "give a full accounting to the American people 
as to why this action was taken and he must do so immediately."

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

   Hawley called the search "an unprecedented assault on democratic norms and 
the rule of law." He called for Garland's resignation or impeachment and the 
removal of FBI Director Wray.

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

   Also from Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, still another Republican weighing a 
2024 run, called the search "unprecedented and alarming." But like Pence, he 
added, "We must see the probable cause affidavit before making a judgment."

   The search intensified the months-long probe into how classified documents 
ended up in boxes of White House records located at Mar-a-Lago earlier this 
year. A separate grand jury is investigating efforts by Trump and allies to 
overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

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

   Views on Trump's criminal liability broke down predictably along party 
lines, with 86% of Democrats and 10% of Republicans saying Trump should be 
charged. Still, the fact that nearly half the country believed he should be 
prosecuted represents a remarkable 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 strengthen Trump's standing among Republican primary voters, 
especially those Republicans who had begun to lean toward DeSantis or another 
fresh face. But if Trump is ultimately indicted for a federal crime related to 
the search, as Nunberg said he expects, the former president's ability to win 
over a broader group of voters in the 2024 general election could take a major 
hit.

   "Despite the fantasies of everyone from Sean Hannity to Steve Bannon, I can 
promise you that someone under indictment isn't going to get elected president 
of the United States," Nunberg said.

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

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

   "I've talked a lot about the civil war in the GOP and I lean into it because 
America needs fearless & effective Republicans to finally put America First," 
she tweeted. "Last night's tyrannical FBI raid at MAR is unifying us in ways I 
haven't seen."

 
 
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