WASHINGTON – Donald Trump has given every indication that he is running for president in 2024. An FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida on Monday may only harden his resolve to jump into the race — and possibly speed up the timetable.
“If he wasn’t running before, he is now,” said a person close to the former president, who was not authorized to speak on the record. “It angers him that they can do this to him. One way to stop it is to take control of the government again.”
As an active candidate, Trump may be in a strong position to argue that the federal investigation equates to a politically motivated attempt to harm him in a potential showdown with President Joe Biden.
Another incentive to run would be that, should he win, Trump would be sidelined from prosecutors, as the Justice Department’s long-running president has not been charged with a crime. He would also gain the power to hire and dismiss FBI and Justice Department officials, who have great influence over investigations and charges.
None of those realities are lost on Trump, the source said.
Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law, said on Fox News: “They’re scared that he’s going to announce any day that he’s running for president in 2024.” “And it’s a very convenient way to throw a little more mud at Donald Trump like he hasn’t done enough already.”
A Trump attorney, Christina Bob, told NBC News that Trump and his legal team are cooperating with officials and that the FBI has “seized paper” in its “undeclared raid.” A source familiar with the matter said the search was linked to classified information Trump is alleged to have taken with him from the White House to his Palm Beach resort in January 2021.
Trump was the first to publicly disclose that his home was searched. He was not there at the time, and was seen leaving his tall building in New York City on Monday evening. He issued a statement that introduced himself as the target of a “Third World” strategy meant to undermine his potential candidacy.
Trump’s aides immediately seized on the idea that he was being persecuted.
“All of a sudden, 30 agents descend on Mar-a-Lago,” Trump’s son Eric told Fox News. “You know who it came from – it came from one place and one building, and that’s the White House in Washington, DC, they want to attack the one person they see as the biggest threat – it’s Biden’s The biggest threat is. And that’s exactly what Donald J. Trump is.”
A White House official told NBC News that the White House did not have advance notice of the search.
No candidate for high office, especially defending a federal investigation, wants to run. But in Trump’s case, the escalating legal crisis fits a narrative he has spun since announcing his candidacy in 2015: that he is an outsider whose populist appeal threatens the political establishment.
“He has been after President Trump as a candidate, as president, and now as a former president,” tweeted GOP South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, an ally of Trump. “It is un-American to use the criminal justice system in this way.”
At this early stage, it is difficult to predict the outcome of the unprecedented news that federal agents obtained a search warrant, entered the home of a former president and opened his personal vault. Sensing Trump’s vulnerability, more Republicans may decide to challenge him for the party’s 2024 nomination. The Republican National Committee has asked Trump not to announce his candidacy until after the midterm election in November, said a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly.
“The FBI raiding Trump’s beloved Mar-a-Lago rips the 2024 Republican primary wide open. The Trump era is over, and it’s someone’s ball,” said GOP donor Dan Eberhart. “The stalemate of Republican candidates was waiting to see if Trump was going to run. They don’t have to wait any longer. ,
But there is another possibility: that the government’s actions provoke a backlash that is reimagined to Trump’s advantage. A Chiron on Fox News demonstrated how Trump loyalists might try to capitalize on the development: “Biden’s FBI ransacks home of potential 2024 rival.”
“The effect of this is that it’s going to make him a martyr,” a former Justice Department official, requesting anonymity, said. “It’s going to elevate Trump and push people towards him.