Some top Republicans are acknowledging the growing angst and concern as it has become clearer that Trump may have stored some of America’s most sensitive secrets in an unsecured basement – and even refused to hand them over when the National Archives and the Department of Justice attempted to retrieve them. A top Republican fundraiser who was asked to describe the donor mood said, “There’s tremendous frustration.”
“The question is whether there is a willingness to express this frustration,” added the fundraiser. “I don’t know the answer to that. But there is real frustration, and except for people who are too stupid to understand the need to be frustrated, it’s almost universal.
Tense defenses and private frustrations are familiar emotions for some Republicans in the Trump era. But the stakes are particularly high this fall, with projections of a red wave in the House being dampened by a smaller GOP majority and while the senator. chuck schumer seems potentially poised to retain control of the Senate.
In interviews, some GOP operatives have insisted that there is a “been there, done that” sentiment to the current news cycle. David Kochel, a longtime Iowa agent and critic of the former president, said that’s why he would “always advise more caution.” He felt the GOP’s response was rooted in the belief that media coverage of Trump was inherently too loud.
“After five years of this,” he said, “I think a lot of these Republican members are fed up with it all and are just fighting back. It’s Pavlovian at this point. They are hitting back at the media which they say is always unfair to Trump and none of these things are as bad as the press makes them out to be. They’re not going to kick him out of Mar-a-Lago.
But the current issues facing Trump are also critically different. For starters, he no longer has the powers of the presidency. And, more unusually, he has so far avoided the spotlight.
In the weeks following the Mar-a-Lago raid, the former president went off the air, even avoiding appearances on friendly shows. Instead, he blasted vigilantes on his Truth Social social media site and through his Save America super PAC.
However, the more he speaks for himself, the more political headaches he creates for Republicans. On Monday, he outright offered that he be crowned the “legitimate winner” of a 2020 election fairly won by Biden, or that the ballot be determined to be “irretrievably compromised.” He suggested a rerun of the election in the case of the latter.
Trump is expected to address the FBI search during his first public appearance for a Saturday Save America rally in support of endorsed candidates in Scranton, Pennsylvania next weekend.
“I think people would expect him to go on Fox, go on radio shows, go on prime time shows, Newsmax, OAN, do one-on-one interviews and do a media blitz,” he said. said a person close to the Trump operation. “He doesn’t deal with the media, but the surrogates are there, the lawyers are there, which is smart from a legal standpoint.”
When news first broke that the FBI had entered Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, many Republicans called it a politically motivated witch hunt. But on Capitol Hill, at least, Trump supporters are beginning to drop their initial anti-FBI clamor and offer a hodgepodge of potential explanations as more details about the investigation emerge.
Trump’s storage of highly classified documents at Mar-a-Lago was fine because the estate is secure, some defenders said. Others said the FBI research was simply a distraction from inflation and gas prices.
representative from Ohio Mike Turnerthe top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, argued on Fox News that the search stemmed from classified documents dealing more “with an accounting problem than a threat to national security”. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who faces a tough re-election challenge this fall, argued that “there is likely a much greater danger to national security based on what has does Hillary Clinton”.
Like Johnson, many Republicans have pointed the finger at Trump’s 2016 opponent, who was investigated for keeping classified files on a private email server but ultimately not prosecuted afterward. that the FBI said his case did not have the typical aggravating factors common in Espionage Act cases. Johnson’s remarks also appeared to ignore recent reports of unauthorized individuals accessing Mar-a-Lago – even Trump personally.
Other Republicans, however, have subtly strayed from Trump’s defense to warn of what could happen if — as is increasingly suspected — he is indicted. Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), which is push back the efforts to testify in another Trump-related investigation, warned on Fox News that any “prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information” would ultimately result in “rioting in the streets.”
In the background is Trump himself, demanding Republican loyalty, declaring the United States a “third world” nation, and stepping up his grievance-fueled attacks on the Justice Department and the FBI, while increasing violent threats against its detractors.
And the Republican lawmakers who took to television to support Trump this week are seasoned conference members and close allies. When Congress returns to Washington next month, the entire GOP is in for an episode of 2017 deja vu with a Capitol press corps sure to spark questions about Trump rather than Biden-centric themes. that the party would prefer to address.
Even if the subject were to turn to the Biden administration, the president is emerging from a period of rising approval ratings and surprising legislative successes as Trump continues to propose 2020 raises.
That’s enough for even some more seasoned GOP incumbents to resort to rhetorical gymnastics to shift the blame onto the 2020 winner; Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) on Monday accused the Biden administration of seeking the Mar-a-Lago search warrant simply to hurt the GOP’s chances in November.
“With all the crises that have happened under this administration, they needed a bit of a distraction,” Ernst said Monday on Fox News. ” And it was [a] a great opportunity for this administration to pounce on President Trump, deal with this raid, rather than their own fabricated problems over the past two years.
Sam Stein contributed to this report.