In the weeks since the FBI searched his Palm Beach estate, Trump has worked mostly out of his Bedminster office, where he has held meetings with aides and lawyers. He appeared on political fundraisers for Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew (RN.J.) and Michigan Secretary of State Kristina Karamo, with a performance by country singer Coffey Anderson, aka “Mr. Red White and Blue”—hosted a dinner for Republican lawmakers, gave a pep talk to the caddy member his club’s golf tournament, played rounds of golf with a rotating circle of friends, and celebrated his defeat of Rep. Liz Cheney in the Wyoming GOP primary with club guests.
Reluctantly, he made a trip to New York City for the investigation of AG Leticia James and he commemorated former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a video message for a meeting of the Unification Church in South Korea, the church founded by Rev. Sun. Myung Moon, the Korean religious leader who funded conservative causes in the US. And every day he called allies and members of Congress, fired off a steady stream of angry messages and shared friendly articles from his social media account on Truth Social, and dined on Bedminster’s patio.
GOP officials, aides and media personalities who have spoken to him say Trump is frustrated but “cheerful”. He sought help to strengthen his legal team, but found no buyers. At the same time, he enjoyed seeing parades of MAGA supporters in front of his properties, as well as Fox News pundits and Republican members of Congress largely rushing to his defense. He is also strengthened by the belief that the FBI’s search for his home will benefit him politically. His political action committee has miraculously moved away from the case — since the search took place on Aug. 8, he’s thrown in at least 22 fundraising emails with the word “robbery.”
One thing Trump hasn’t done much since the FBI search went public. While aides and family members have made it onto the television circuit, Trump has not. He gave a short interview to Fox News Digital, and his first public appearance since the quest isn’t until early September, when he holds a Save America rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Trump’s response to the FBI search is, to some extent, a reflection of his current station in politics. He has been in political vise grips before. And while his own circle of advisers and allies recognize that the man famous for getting caught up in nasty legal entanglements is suddenly in uncharted waters, there’s a sense that this too can be navigated.
“I don’t think anyone really believes they are in legal danger,” said one person close to Trump’s operation. “They see this as just another headache to deal with and it’s an unnecessary issue when they can focus on other things, like preparing for a potential run.”
Trump hasn’t been completely nonchalant about the legal dramas that engulfed him. His group of lawyers has filed lawsuits to demand that a special master be appointed to review the materials seized by the FBI to ensure nothing privileged is taken away. Trump himself angrily accused the FBI of confiscating his passports during their search (correspondence later revealed that they took the passports but returned them).
But people who have spoken to the ex-president say his mind is also more focused on his political movement and his own electoral future. Privately, he bragged about updates for his private plane and he has discussed his own plans for 2024. And according to multiple people familiar with Trump’s political plans, there has even been talk of creating a new super-PAC.
“He was optimistic, not gloomy. He didn’t let it deter him, he expressed more contempt for what they did to his family than what they did to him, searching Melania’s closet and going after his children,” said one person who was at the Republican Study Commission dinner with Trump the day after the FBI search.”[The search] was a big discussion at the beginning of the dinner, but he certainly wasn’t obsessed.”
While under investigation for alleged crimes under the Espionage Act, Trump has used the search for Mar-a-Lago as a political incentive. Privately, there is a belief that events will get conservatives on his side and serve as an effective framework for a future run: putting him directly as a target of a Justice Department overseen by Biden. He has been warned by advisers that it is still unclear where the FBI’s investigation may lead, but has nevertheless delved into the now traditional role he plays, that of a Deep State victim.
“All the polls STRONGLY indicate that I am the candidate the Democrats are by far the LEAST willing to fight, hence the politically motivated Raid on Mar-a-Lago – which has backfired!” Trump posted on Truth Social.
The results, at least politically, have encouraged Trump. He has seen a boost in polls regarding a potential primary in 2024. A recent poll from St. Anselm College in New Hampshire showed him a 20-point lead over potential rivals, including Florida governor Ron DeSantis. And an NBC News poll released Sunday showed that while a majority of American voters believe the investigation into Trump should continue, Trump’s support within the Republican Party has risen 7 percentage points since the search.
But while Trump has received a boost in his position within the party, he has not enjoyed it publicly; at least not yet. Trump has organized tele-rallies in support of candidates and plans to hold a Save America rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in support of two of his approved candidates: Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and gubernatorial hopeful Doug Mastriano, who both are lagging behind in their races. Trump is expected to hold more rallies in the run-up to the midterm elections.
The question everyone faces is whether – and when – he will rally for his own run.
People around Trump believe that a bid in 2024 is a certainty at this point. But while the FBI drama hasn’t changed everything in the Trump world, it seems to have had one big impact: making the decision about when to announce more complicated. There are now as many people telling Trump to hold off on revealing a run as there are urging him to jump in as a sign of political resistance.
“A big advantage is that he is fully aware that if he comes in before the midterm elections he will be blamed for losing the Senate – he has argued that case [to us] and understands,” said the RSC member.