TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended former President Donald Trump after the FBI on Monday searched the ex-president’s Palm Beach County resort, calling it a “weaponization of federal agencies.”
All of Florida’s top Republican politicians criticized the FBI’s search, but much of the focus fell on DeSantis, who is viewed as Trump’s rival as both men eye a potential run for president in 2024.
“The raid on [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,” DeSantis tweeted Monday night, hours after news broke that the FBI had searched Trump’s residence.
The FBI action at Mar-a-Lago, first reported by Florida Politics, was confirmed by Trump in a statement after federal agents had searched the resort. Two sources familiar with the search told POLITICO it’s connected to alleged mishandling of classified material.
The FBI targeting Mar-a-Lago, dubbed the Winter White House when Trump was in office, shook the political world. But is has particular resonance in Florida, where DeSantis has quickly ascended the national Republican Party and is viewed as a top-tier 2024 presidential candidate and potential threat to Trump if he were to again run for president — which is something Trump has been signaling he would do for months.
DeSantis won the 2018 Florida GOP gubernatorial primary in large part because of a Trump’s endorsement, but the two do not have a close relationship. DeSantis even declined to ask Trump for an endorsement ahead of his 2022 re-election bid.
In his tweet, DeSantis also tied the FBI’s search on Mar-A-Lago to last weekend’s Senate passage of Democrat-crafted legislation that will inject $700 billion into climate, tax and health care issues, including funding for 80,000 additional IRS agents.
“Now the Regime is getting another 87k IRS agents to wield against its adversaries?” DeSantis tweeted. “Banana Republic.”
House Republicans also condemned the FBI’s search on Mar-a-Lago, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy threatening to investigate the Department of Justice if the GOP takes control of the House in November. McCarthy used a phrase similar as DeSantis’ — “weaponized politicization” — in characterizing the FBI.
Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio also blasted the move and raised what he saw as concerns with the new IRS agents in the wake of the Mar-A-Lago search.
“After today’s raid on Mar A Lago what do you think the left plans to use those 87,000 new IRS agents for?” Rubio tweeted. “Using government power to persecute political opponents is something we have seen many times from 3rd world Marxist dictatorships. But never before in America.”
Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott tweeted the FBI’s move “is incredibly concerning, especially given the Biden admin’s history of going after parents & other political opponents. This is 3rd world country stuff. We need answers NOW. The FBI must explain what they were doing today & why.”
A Florida GOP operative also highlighted that the FBI’s action could politically benefit both DeSantis and Trump, though for differing reasons.
“This is a unique opportunity for DeSantis because he can highlight the ongoing battle with the radical left and at the same time further distance himself from Trump,” said a veteran Florida Republican operative, granted anonymity to speak freely about the situation. “DeSantis continues to be the perfect combination of political skill and good fortune.”
The operative, however, sees the FBI search as something that could give Trump heightened momentum with a Republican base that in recent months has started to line up behind DeSantis.
“What makes things interesting is that Trump has almost no choice but to get in and spend the next several months doing everything he possibly can to secure the base,” the person added. “The only thing that helps push back against potential criminal liability is a high level political candidacy.”
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