Trump’s world is no stranger to being deeply suspicious, even conspiratorial. But speculation sparked by the FBI’s search has taken on a different twist, coming amid a combination of anxiety – that the so-called Deep State is looking to nab the former president – and a lack of public information about the office’s actions.
“I can tell you that we all agree that it’s corrupt,” said Michael Caputo, a longtime Trump confidant whose service in the Trump administration was marked by the attacks he carried out on career civil servants and an acrimonious exit. “A lot of people in the Trump world would agree with me that it’s theater and it’s designed to hurt the president, it’s designed to hurt Republicans in the middle term and it’s designed to advance the interests of the Democratic Party. And you know what, they completely failed.
There is no evidence that the Justice Department did anything improper, and it in fact obtained federal court approval to obtain its search warrant. Trump himself could answer some of the lingering questions. He is free to release the warrant – although he has not received the underlying affidavit – and to describe the files that were confiscated by the FBI. But so far he has chosen not to. Only two of his lawyers were present during the search, and they say they were barred from supervising while officers retrieved the files.
However, more information may soon be available. Judge Bruce Reinhart, the federal magistrate who signed the search warrant last week, ordered the Justice Department on Wednesday to respond by Monday to efforts by the media and advocacy groups to unseal the document.
In the absence of that information, however, Trump’s allies began pushing conspiracies to explain the investigation.
The chatter was fueled, in part, by two articles, one to Axios the other in Newsweek, which suggested that someone high in Trump’s orbit had tipped and was cooperating with the government and which detailed the belief among some of Trump’s hands that they had a mole. By late Wednesday afternoon, it had become an open place topic discussed on Fox News. And a story in The Wall Street Journal reported that, in fact, a witness assisted investigators, telling the FBI that not all classified records were released during initial negotiations and helping investigators locate missing records.
But the theory most aggressively pushed by Trump allies, at least in public, was the idea that evidence could have been planted by the FBI at the scene. Trump himself floated the idea in a post on his social media site, and it was amplified by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), as well as Fox News hosts like Jesse Watters, and even Trump’s own lawyer.
“I’m afraid they planted something,” Trump attorney Alina Habba told Fox News on Tuesday. “At this point, who knows? I don’t trust the government, and that’s a very scary thing as an American. It’s third world. This is Cuba. It’s not our country. »
Trump and his advisers also worked to use FBI research to their political advantage. In the aftermath, the former president received calls from Capitol Hill allies and lawmakers who encouraged him to fast-track his leap into the 2024 presidential race. And on Monday evening, Trump met with the Republican Review Committee at his Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey, where he spoke of his outrage at the events and hinted at what he would do next.
“He gave me some room to doubt he would run again, and he got substantial encouragement in the room to run again,” the rep said. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) told POLITICO. “And his campaign activity leading into the midterms is helping to attract voters.”
Within 48 hours of the search, Trump’s Save America PAC ran a new political ad linking the search to New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civilian investigation into Trump and the Jan. 6 investigations. And Trump has actively raised funds for the research, sending emails and text messages denouncing the FBI’s actions and asking for contributions.
Republican lawmakers, ranging from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to the rep. Elise Sefanik (RN.Y.), pledged to investigate why federal agents issued the search warrant, a political issue moving mid-term and beyond.
“I’d be shocked if a Republican majority didn’t sue a 21st century church committee, which is where I think it’s leading,” a Republican consultant close to Trump’s world said, referring to congressional hearings. of the 1970s on intelligence activities. “I think there have been enough examples of politicization in institutions that that’s where Republican voters are. Republicans have been around for a while — but a lot of Republican politicians have gotten the message. »
Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.