The raid of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s house in Palm Beach, Florida, was aimed at preventing the former president from gaining office again, they told The Epoch Times.
If anything, however, the raid has had the opposite effect, they said, as the belief grows that Trump will announce a new presidential run sooner rather than later.
Far from providing a smoking gun that opponents of Trump may have sought to bar the former president from office, the raid has demonstrated that Trump can never be reconciled to partisan special interests in Washington that have a lock on government, thus ensuring that Trump most certainly will run, said some.
In the end, either Trump or the “deep state”—a group of powerful bureaucrats who Trump and others say really control the shots in Washington—will prevail: That’s the message conservatives should take from the raid, said two people interviewed who are the most familiar with Trump’s thinking, Ken Blackwell and Sebastian Gorka, although neither men claimed to represent the views of the former president.
Raid Has Made Trump More Powerful
“Without doubt, President Trump is more powerful now after the illegal Mar-a-Lago raid than he has ever been politically,” former deputy presidential assistant under Trump, Sebastian Gorka, who is one of the former president’s fiercest allies, told the Epoch Times.
Gorka, 51, who hosts a syndicated radio show distributed by the Salem Network, estimated that Trump’s base of voters has grown from 75 million voters to over 100 million voters since the billionaire developer’s departure from the White House, just a year and a half ago.
“The real issue is how the perception of Trump has changed in the eyes of millions and millions of people,” added Gorka, who said that the FBI raid has hastened Trump’s popularity, not diminished it.
Similarly, Ken Blackwell, who served on the transition team for Trump in 2016 and is involved in the Center for Election Integrity at the America First Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank founded by former Trump officials, noted that Trump’s popularity has always tracked higher each year, in part, because of the people who oppose him.
Trump, Blackwell noted, added to GOP presidential vote totals in 2020, gaining a net of just over 20 million more votes since 2012 for the Republicans, calling the growth “extraordinary.”
“When you look at the number of battleground states that Trump won over the years, it’s a clear indication that there’s a lot left in the tank for Trump,” Blackwell said.
GOP Hits Back
The echo of the FBI banging on the front door of Mar-a-Lago, the Trump-owned resort that served as the second White House for Trump while president, had not yet died before politicos not known for defending Trump, were, in fact, defending the former president over the raid.
The staff for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) promptly responded to an inquiry by The Epoch Times for comment on the raid with a copy of a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray demanding answers about the raid, in one such closing of ranks amongst conservatives.
“Senator Rubio began the oversight process yesterday with a letter to FBI Director Wray demanding answers and an in-person meeting,” Dan Holler, Rubio’s deputy chief of staff, told The Epoch Times in an email on Aug. 11.
Holler said that such action was the “[b]eginning of a long process,” adding that Rubio will head up the Senate Intelligence Committee next year if the GOP takes the majority in the 2022 Senate elections.
Rubio’s prompt rejection of the raid, said Blackwell and Gorka, was indicative of the widespread rejection by conservatives and Republicans of the several pretexts which Department of Justice (DOJ) sources put forward anonymously for the raid via media outlets like the Washington Post, before the warrant was unsealed on Aug. 12. The warrant showed that Trump was being investigated over potential breaches to three U.S. laws relating to the handling of official records, including of defense information and records used in federal investigations.
Trump, for his part, argues that all the records were declassified, adding that he and his team had been fully cooperating with investigators, making such an extraordinary search unnecessary. Others agree.
“The President of the United States has the power to declassify any record he wants, so it’s pretextual legal nonsense for the Biden Justice Department to pretend President Trump broke any criminal statute by taking 15 boxes of his records with him when he left,” Mike Davis of the Article III Project (A3P), which promotes constitutionalist judges and the rule of law, told The Epoch Times.
“Former presidents have government-paid staff and offices, Secret Service protection, security clearances, and secure facilities to store classified records, so there’s no legitimate concern that President Trump’s records could have gotten into the wrong hands,” Davis said in rejecting the official justification for the raid.
Likewise, Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, who has thus far been mentioned as one of the likeliest Trump opponents for the GOP nomination in 2024, was quick to denounce the FBI raid.
Responding to the Epoch Times without delay via email, Delanie Bomar, press secretary to DeSantis, pointed to a previous statement made by DeSantis via Twitter very shortly after the raid.
“The raid of [Mar-a-Lago] is another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents, while people like Hunter Biden get treated with kid gloves,” said DeSantis on Aug. 8.
Even Vice President Mike Pence, who has been at loggerheads with Trump since just after the 2020 election, took to Twitter on Aug. 9 to publicly ask high government officials in the Biden administration to immediately “give a full accounting to the American people,” about why they conducted an “unprecedented search of the personal residence” of the former president.
The totality of the actions has been to solidify Trump amongst voters and activists as a reformer determined to take on entrenched special interests within government on behalf of the GOP, said those interviewed by The Epoch Times.
“Attorney General Merrick Garland may just have succeeded in unifying the Republican Party behind Donald Trump,” Davis at A3P told The Epoch Times of the 2024 presidential nomination.
Worries That the GOP Will Be a ‘Nothing Burger’ On the Raid
However, some conservatives have warned that in the end, the GOP in Congress will never act against the FBI raiders if they gain the majority in either house of Congress, even if they do investigate, as Republican lawmakers have pledged in the wake of the raid.
One such critic points out that the GOP never really took action against the government during any of the Obama-era scandals like “Fast and Furious” or Benghazi, when in the majority despite highly-publicized investigations.
Nor are they eager to take on the current Biden scandals in any meaningful way, such as those revealed by Hunter Biden’s laptop, the critic said.
“In an ideal world, the GOP would be fighting fire with fire but Republicans don’t have it in them,” Breanna Morello, a former Fox News and Newsmax producer, who now hosts the “Flyover Conservative” podcast based in Palm Beach County, Florida, very near Trump’s oceanside mansion, told The Epoch Times
“Even [House minority leader Kevin] McCarthy’s statement was a nothing burger,” added Morello about the GOP House leader’s promise to investigate the DOJ if the GOP takes back the House.
Morello said that the GOP, given time, will abandon the defense of Trump, once elections are in hand, because that’s what they have always done.
Ironically, it’s that diffidence by the GOP that adds to Trump’s power amongst conservative voters, because Trump himself is seen by ordinary voters as one of the few people with the courage to stand up to the liberals and the bureaucrats who make up the administrative opposition to Trump and others who wish to expose the so-called deep state, said Blackwell.
This is especially true after this latest political prosecution under the guise of an FBI raid, added Blackwell, who at one time was Ohio’s top election official serving as Secretary of State for the Buckeye state.
This Time It’s Different
Blackwell said that in the first Trump administration there was consistent opposition to Trump’s placement of appointees who challenged “the status quo” inside of the “administrative state” or deep state.
As the bitterness between Trump and the bureaucrats has grown through two impeachment crises, multiple investigations of Trump, and the targeting of Trump officials by the administrative state, such as retired Gen. Michael Flynn, it’s clear that a second Trump term would be a “take-no-prisoners” affair, said Blackwell.
“A second Trump administration would be a take-no-prisoners attempt at dislodging the people who have burrowed themselves deep in the bowels of the deep state or, as I say, the administrative state,” said Blackwell.
According to both Blackwell and Gorka, the policy missteps of the Biden administration, including its approach towards COVID-19 and policies that have contributed to historic inflation, have added to the impetus coming from voters to dislodge those bureaucrats who they perceive as having authored those policies.
Gorka believes that Democrats are worried by this change in sentiment from voters, and therefore hope to use the raid on Trump to distract from the current administration’s failures.
“When the disgraced Democrat [former] governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, who despises Trump, tweets out if there is no real proof, if there isn’t a smoking gun, then this will be seen as political persecution, you know the Democrats are in trouble,” Gorka said referring to Cuomo’s response to the raid on Aug. 9.
The Raid Rakes in Money
Blackwell said that one way of determining people’s interest in the raid is by looking at whether the interest is bankable by candidates in terms of fundraising.
Several media outlets have played up efforts by candidates and potential candidates on the right, including Trump, to use the raid to raise money.
“People don’t just vote their comfort, they vote their concerns,” said Blackwell about fundraising in general.
“The Biden administration has given people plenty to be concerned about, surely enough that I think people will be persuaded to give up some of their treasure to address those concerns,” in light of the FBI raid, Blackwell added.
To that extent, the raid seems bankable with conservative voters judging by attempts to raise money from it.
Sen. Rubio’s prompt rejection of the explanations for the raid by the DOJ was followed up with an email fundraising appeal by Rubio less than 24 hours later using the raid as a subject line.
“I’ll say it plain and simple,” Rubio said in the fundraising email, “using government power to persecute political opponents is something we have seen many times from Marxist dictatorships, but now, we’re seeing it from the Biden administration.”
Trump’s political action committee, Save America PAC, has also sent out emails, one of which shared the subject line: “These are dark times for our Nation.”
Likewise, House Republicans and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), have sent out fundraising appeals on the raid.
Trump to Declare Early?
None of those interviewed knew whether Trump now intended to move up a timeline for announcing a run for a second term, assuming the former president has already decided to run in 2024, which Trump has previously confirmed was the case.
“I think he should declare early, but I don’t think it has anything to do with preventing other people from running against him,” said Gorka about the timing for announcing a second run, dismissing the notion that Trump might have effective opposition inside the GOP.
“It will perhaps give him a modicum of protection against the Gestapo-like tactics of the current administration, the FBI, the DOJ, and the CIA,” Gorka added.
Once he’s officially a presidential candidate, Trump will perhaps get a little bit of political protection from those who wish to destroy him, said Gorka.
Blackwell said he doesn’t think it makes much difference if Trump announces his candidacy in September, or waits and does it in December or later.
In either event, one can be sure that Trump, who is a master at getting and keeping attention, will do something to outrage the Democrats, said Blackwell, who doubts an announcement of a presidential run by Trump would provide any political cover.
“He such a teaser, and he knows how to tease to the point that he’s optimizing energy and excitement,” Blackwell said of Trump’s ability to hold the attention of the country.
“I have so much confidence in his ability to know when to pull the trigger,” said Blackwell, that he is content to let the decision come from Trump when he’s ready.
Trump’s Popularity Boosted
Recent polls have shown that despite attempts over the summer to implicate Trump in criminal wrongdoing over the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, Trump remains the favorite of both conservative activists and Republican primary voters, two constituencies often at odds with each other over candidates.
And these polls buttress the arguments of Gorka, Blackwell, and others who say that Trump is more popular than ever—at least inside the GOP.
A recent straw poll at a Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) gathering in Texas showed Trump as the top preference for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 of the attendees who represent the grassroots conservative activists—those who get-out-the-vote for the GOP.
The CPAC results gave Trump 69 percent of the vote versus second place for DeSantis with 28 percent of the vote.
Additionally, 99 percent of attendees now approve of Trump’s first term, as opposed to an 86 percent approval rating that CPAC attendees gave the former president just a few months ago in February.
Perhaps even more noteworthy, a new poll by Politico/Morning Consult conducted after the raid showed that support for Trump amongst GOP primary voters has risen to a post-presidential high.
Currently, 58 percent of Republican primary voters favor Trump as the Republican nominee in 2024, and 71 percent said that Trump should run for president, both of which are high-water marks since the Manhattan developer left the White House.
Meanwhile, DeSantis’s share of the GOP vote for 2024 has slumped from 21 percent in July to 16 percent said the survey conducted Aug. 10, with a sample size of 2,004 registered voters.
The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Taken together, the results mark a ten-point swing for Trump over his nearest competitor, and seem to solidify what conservative insiders have told The Epoch Times—that the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago has made Trump more powerful in the GOP as voters become clearer with what’s at stake in 2024.
What Victory Means
For Blackwell, the raid is galvanizing Republicans into action.
“I think people smell what victory for the GOP means,” said Blackwell referring to the 2022 elections as well as 2024.
What it means, he said, is an attempt to take the House, the Senate, and the presidency for a president in Trump who has a bonafide track record as a conservative.
The raid is a reminder of all that is at stake, not just for Donald Trump, but for the country as well.
“I see candidates and donors and voters not just bound by their optimism, but fueled by their concerns as well,” concluded Blackwell.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the White House, DOJ, and FBI for comment.