Donald Trump and his allies seek to cast recent FBI search of his Florida residence as Democratic-driven effort to keep him from winning another term in 2024.
Top Republican leaders have thrown their support behind former US president Donald Trump after an extraordinary FBI raid on his palatial Florida residence sparked a political firestorm in an already bitterly divided country.
"Nothing like this has ever happened to a president of the United States before," Trump said on Tuesday of the FBI operation at his Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach. "They even broke into my safe!"
Trump denounced the raid as a "weaponisation of the Justice System" by "Radical Left Democrats who desperately don't want me to run for President in 2024."
Several former advisors to the 76-year-old Trump urged him to immediately confirm that he would be a presidential candidate in 2024.
The unprecedented FBI search marked a significant escalation of the federal investigation into whether Trump illegally removed records from the White House as he was leaving office in January 2021.
'Banana republic tactics'
Trump's former vice president Mike Pence, a potential 2024 rival, expressed "deep concern" and said the raid smacked of "partisanship" by the Justice Department.
Kevin McCarthy, who is seeking to become speaker of the House of Representatives if Republicans win November's midterm elections, accused the Justice Department of "weaponised politicisation."
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said "launching an investigation of a former president this close to an election is beyond problematic."
Republican Congressman Scott Perry –– a Trump ally –– said that FBI agents confiscated his cell phone, but did not specify why it was taken.
"This morning, while travelling with my family, three FBI agents visited me and seized my cell phone," Perry told FOX News, condemning "these kinds of banana republic tactics."
Representative Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking House Republican, called it a "dark day in American history."
"If the FBI can raid a US president, imagine what they can do to you," Stefanik tweeted, to which Democratic Representative Ted Lieu replied: "Why can't the FBI investigate a US president? We're not Russia, where the law doesn't apply to the head of state and his cronies."
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "no person is above the law."
The FBI's raid on President Trump is a dark day in American history.— Rep. Elise Stefanik (@RepStefanik) August 9, 2022
My full statement 👇👇👇 pic.twitter.com/XGJiV28GEi
Trump's former communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin told CNN the raid could fire up his supporters, a small number of whom rallied outside Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday.
"If it's seen as some sort of massive overreach and not something incredibly serious, this is a very good day for Donald Trump," Farah Griffin said.
For weeks, Washington has been riveted by hearings in Congress about the January 6 storming of the Capitol and Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election.