Donald Trump’s Republican Party has come to the former US president’s defence after FBI agents conducted a search at his residence in Florida, with many conservative lawmakers vowing to investigate law enforcement agencies involved in the incident.
The anger was expressed by far-right firebrands as well as mainstream Republican congressional leaders who claimed without evidence that the raid on Monday night was politically motivated.
“I’ve seen enough,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement. “The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization.”
McCarthy said “when” Republicans win control of the House of Representatives, they will conduct “immediate oversight” of the department, warning that Attorney General Merrick Garland should preserve his documents and clear his calendar.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed McCarthy’s statement, starting with refuting his insinuation that Republicans would take control of the House of Representatives after the upcoming midterm elections in November.
“No person is above the law – not even the president of the United States, not even a former president of the United States,” Pelosi told the Today Show on NBC.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre stressed on Tuesday that President Joe Biden had no knowledge of the search before it happened.
“The president was not briefed, was not aware of it. No one at the White House was given a heads up,” Jean-Pierre told reporters, adding that Biden believes that Justice Department investigations should be “free from political influence”.
Trump had announced that a “large number” of FBI agents had entered his residence at Mar-a-Lago in an “unannounced raid”, saying that they put the place “under siege” and “broke into” his safe.
The former president described the search as part of a Democratic-led political push to prevent him from running again in 2024 and called it “political persecution”.
The search was conducted through a judge-approved warrant, and legal experts say it must have been given a green light from the senior level at the Justice Department due to the high-profile nature of the case and the involvement of an ex-president.
The FBI has not revealed what it was looking for during the raid, but several US media outlets cited unidentified sources as saying the search targeted the possible mishandling of classified material.
In February, the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of White House documents relating to Trump’s presidency from Mar-a-Lago that included classified materials. The matter was shared with Congress and referred to the Justice Department.
Trump faces several investigations, including a New York probe into his business practices and public hearings by the congressional committee examining the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.
Still, many Republicans portrayed the FBI search on Monday as a political assault on the former president and his supporters.
This is what happens in third world countries.
Not the United States.
Doesn’t the FBI have better things to do than harass the former PRESIDENT? https://t.co/XoP6hz5hDR
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) August 8, 2022
Lauren Boebert, a right-wing lawmaker, compared the FBI search to the conduct of the secret Nazi police. “This is Gestapo c**p,” she said in a video she shared on social media, calling the raid “totally unAmerican”.
“The department of injustice needs to be cleaned out if they are going to start pretending we’re some sort of banana republic,” she said.
Other Republicans took aim at the FBI. “DEFUND THE FBI!” Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote on Twitter. Current FBI Director Christopher Wray is a Trump appointee.
Congressman Matt Gaetz, a staunch Trump ally, also suggested withholding funds from the FBI and other agencies in response to what he says are efforts to undermine the former president politically.
“My assessment is the antidote has to be ‘not one more damn penny’ for this administrative state that has been weaponised against our people in a very fascist way,” Gaetz told a news show hosted by right-wing operative Steve Bannon.
It wasn’t only the far-right wing of the party that denounced the raid. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a top House Republican, called it a “dark day in American history”.
“The political weaponisation of the FBI and Department of Justice is an actual threat to democracy,” she said.
Stefanik and other Republicans invoked the fact that former Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not charged over using a private server to send emails containing classified material.
Clinton was subjected to a lengthy FBI investigation even as she was running for president in 2016.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 Republican candidate for president, also came to Trump’s defence over what he called “another escalation in the weaponisation of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents”.
That top Republicans are defending Trump even as ongoing investigations threaten his political future shows the extent of the former president’s influence on the party.
Several Republican lawmakers who vocally opposed Trump and voted for his impeachment after the January 6 riot are either retiring or losing their primaries to candidates endorsed by the ex-president.
After Monday’s search, many Democrats focused on the potential wrongdoing by Trump, calling for the investigation to proceed.
“Presidents have a solemn duty to protect America’s national security, and allegations that former President Trump put our security at risk by mishandling classified information warrant the utmost scrutiny,” Carolyn Maloney, Democratic chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said in a statement.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, was more explicit in calling for Trump to be prosecuted.
“That’s what happens when you break the law, try to steal an election, and incite a deadly insurrection,” Jayapal wrote on Twitter.
“Donald Trump should be in jail. I’m glad to see the FBI taking steps towards accountability.”