Hours after denouncing the FBI's raid on his Florida home as political persecution, former President Donald Trump released a campaign-style video that may be the strongest hint yet that he plans to run against President Joe Biden in 2024.
The FBI’s actions on Monday have arguably placed Trump in his political sweet spot, allowing him to claim that he is a victim of institutional forces trying to destroy him. The much-employed narrative again had Republicans rallying around him at a time when his grip on the party appeared to be slipping, reports Reuters with inputs from CNN.
Trump and his allies on Tuesday wasted no time trying to stir anger and passion among his supporters, while also trying to rake in dollars off the raid of his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida
"There is no mountain we cannot climb, there is no summit we cannot reach, there is no challenge we cannot meet," Trump said in the new video, which included an extended critique of the Democratic Biden administration. "We will not bend, we will not break, we will not yield."
The ad was followed by fundraising appeals highlighting the raid.
According to sources, FBI agents entered Trump's home as part of an investigation into his removal of boxes of classified records from the White House when his term as president ended in 2021.
Trump’s family said he had been cooperating with the probe, and any criminal liability remains unclear.
Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former top White House aide to Trump, said on Tuesday that if the result of the document raid proves to be underwhelming to the public, outrage among Republicans voters could help Trump secure their party's nomination.
“If it’s seen as some sort of massive overreach and not something incredibly serious, this is a very good day for Donald Trump,” she said.
Trump, 76, has remained viable as a candidate despite surviving two impeachments and a far-ranging investigation into his ties with Russia while president. Probes into his financial dealings and potential election interference are ongoing.
The raid was denounced by a bevy of Republican members of Congress, governors and candidates in November's midterm elections, who also contended the US Justice Department acted with political motives.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called the raid “another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the (administration’s) political opponents.”
DeSantis has long been viewed as a potential Republican challenger to Trump for the 2024 presidential nomination, but is also facing re-election as governor this year and relying on support from Trump diehards to help him get there.
Some Democrats openly fretted about political blowback.
Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the former governor of New York, called for the Justice Department to immediately explain the rationale for the raid.
“It must be more than a search for inconsequential archives or it will be viewed as a political tactic,” tweeted Cuomo, who resigned as governor a year ago after multiple women accused him of unwanted sexual advances, which he denied.
Republicans have long maintained their voters are more motivated to vote in the Nov. 8 midterms, when control of Congress is at stake. But Democrats hope to have closed the enthusiasm gap after the US Supreme Court did away with constitutional protection for abortion and a string of big-ticket legislative victories in Congress.
Biden, in particular, has been enjoying a spate of positive news, from better-than-expected economic numbers to the passage of a long-gestating climate and healthcare bill in the Senate.
Now Republicans appear to be looking to the FBI raid to galvanize its base once more. The arms of the Republican National Committee that support candidates for the US Senate and the House of Representatives both launched fundraising volleys in its wake.
Candidates such as Herschel Walker, who is running for the US Senate in Georgia, and Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for Arizona governor, condemned the raid in stark terms.
“Our government is rotten to the core,” Lake said in a statement, calling the Biden administration “tyrants” and “corrupt.”
Lake’s rhetoric in parts echoed those who participated in the siege of the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and Trump-friendly social media channels were buzzing after the raid with talk of “civil war.”
Trump has spent the summer being implicated by testimony before a congressional committee probe of the Jan. 6 events that has insinuated he is to blame for the attack on the Capitol. Whether he will be charged criminally remains an open question.
Perhaps as a result, opinion polls show Trump’s standing in the eyes of some Republicans falling. A New York Times/Siena College poll released last month showed nearly half of Republican primary voters surveyed desired a presidential candidate other than Trump.
Even if Trump manages to win over most Republican voters, it is far from certain he could ever again muster the widespread support he drew during his successful 2016 run – and events such as the FBI raid could further damage him in that regard.