In the minutes and hours after the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s residence in Florida this month, his supporters did not hesitate to denounce what they saw as a blatant abuse of power and outrageous politicization of the Justice Department.
But with the release of a redacted affidavit detailing the justification for the search, the former president’s allies were largely silent, a potentially telling reaction with ramifications for his political future.
“I would just caution folks not to draw too many conclusions,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, a Republican, said on Fox News. It was a starkly different admonition from his earlier condemnations of what he said were “politically motivated actions.”
Some Republicans will no doubt rally around Trump and his claim that he is once again being targeted by a rogue FBI that is still out to get him. His former acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said on Twitter that “this raid was, in fact, just about documents,” which he called “simply outrageous.” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. and an ardent Trump ally, was on the right-wing broadcaster Newsmax denouncing the FBI as politically biased, though he notably did not defend the former president’s possession of highly classified documents.
But generally, even the most bombastic Republicans — Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Jim Jordan of Ohio — were at least initially focused elsewhere. Greene was posting on Friday about border “invasions.” Boebert noted on Twitter the anniversary of the suicide bombing of U.S. service members at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Jordan was focused on an interview with Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder. None tweeted about the affidavit.
The accusations against Trump have become increasingly serious.
Classified documents dealing with matters such as Trump’s correspondences with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were stored in unsecured rooms at Mar-a-Lago, The New York Times reported this month. The untempered attacks on the FBI after the initial search led to threats against federal law enforcement, opening up Republicans — long the self-proclaimed party of law and order — to charges from Democrats that they were trying to “defund” the agency.
And voters are again distracted by Trump in the political spotlight, even as Republicans try to direct their attention toward the economy and soaring inflation when the Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said efforts to control rising prices would exact pain on Americans.
All of this could mean that enough Republican voters grow weary of the division and drama around Trump and are ready to move on.
Little wonder, then, that Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s adviser and deputy chief of staff, took to Fox News on Friday afternoon to plead for Trump to stop commenting on the FBI investigation, for his own good and the good of his party.
“Let the election conversation get back to what it ought to be about,” Rove said, “which is about inflation and the economy and the direction of the country and people’s views of President Biden’s competence.”