Among the Republican operatives preparing for Donald Trump’s fiercely anticipated, increasingly inevitable 2024 announcement, news of this week’s F.B.I. raid on Mar-a-Lago was more than an unprecedented political outrage—it was also an incredible electoral opportunity. The one thing that reliably unifies the G.O.P., after all, is the perception that their institutions and values are under attack from the left. And what better enemy is there—in the post-Comey, post-Mueller, post-Russiagate environment—than armed agents of Joe Biden’s Justice Department executing a search warrant of the former president’s home over something as inconsequential as, say, a dozen boxes of improperly-stored classified documents?
It’s still unclear, of course, what the F.B.I. was really looking for in the Mar-a-Lago basement, or how the raid fits into a presumably broader D.O.J. investigation, or why the typically over-cautious Merrick Garland apparently blindsided the White House by taking such an extraordinary action. The legal implications for Trump are similarly unclear. But as a source close to Trumpworld put it to me, inadvertently quoting Rahm Emanuel, you “never let a crisis go to waste.” Absent some kind of justification from the D.O.J., which would represent a Comeyesque breach of protocol, Trump and his allies are perfectly positioned to exploit the informational asymmetry. Not since Trump’s first impeachment have all the political and media organs of the conservative movement aligned around a single, undeniably potent message: They’ll do anything to keep him from running again.
It’s also a message that Republicans believe has momentum. Indeed, the accelerating speculation surrounding Mar-a-Lago, according to multiple insiders I spoke with, is that Trump will likely move up a presidential announcement to capitalize on it. “Nobody is worried” about potential legal fallout, one Trumpworld insider said. “Everyone I talked to is galvanized and most now believe he should announce ASAP.” In an ideal world, this source continued, a pre-midterms Trump announcement could even increase voter turnout for Republicans, countering the explosion of Democratic activism following the repeal of Roe v. Wade. “But only if Republicans take advantage of it. That’s not always a given.”