It was like a lightning strike; swift, out of the dark. The Federal Bureau of Investigations suddenly descended upon the Florida residence of Donald Trump late Monday with no warning, serving a search warrant.
Trump immediately issued a statement about the raid, shocked and horrified by the sudden violation of what he thought was a nearly-sacred ground, and his supporters immediately rallied to his defense.
Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Raided by FBI
It was a typical Monday for Donald Trump. A little diet Coke, perhaps some steak with ketchup - in his paradise-in-Florida home, the former President was expecting a business-as-usual week.
But then, an "army" of FBI agents descended upon the South Florida residence, tucking into every nook and cranny - including, according to Trump, breaking into his safe, as they served a search warrant granted by a federal judge.
Trump took to Truth Social immediately, releasing a statement where he called it, "dark times," and suggested America was a broken third world country.
Trump suggested that there was political savvy behind the raid, an attempt to keep him from running for President again in 2024.
He wrote on Truth, "I stood up to America's bureaucratic corruption, I restored power to the people, and truly delivered for our Country, like we have never seen before. The establishment hated it. Now, as they watch my endorsed candidates win big victories, and see my dominance in all polls, they are trying to stop me, and the Republican party, once more. The lawlessness, political persecution, and Witch Hunt must be exposed and stopped. I will continue my fight for the Great American People!"
Trump's comments taken out of context show understandable frustration. But taken in contrast - against the backdrop of the January 6 committee which holds him accountable for riling up a violent mob - they're stunningly lacking in legal strategy to shield him from more criminal liability. However, Trump knows exactly what to say to get his supporters angry on his behalf, and it's been working.
The bar for a search warrant against a former President is unfathomably high - and would have required evidence beyond a shadow of any doubt to be granted by a federal judge.
So it seems likely that they have nearly incontrovertible evidence of either a crime already committed, or one in commission.
What does this mean for Donald Trump? It could mean a criminal indictment, and sooner than later. Whether or not it would bar him from office is another question. When Hillary Clinton was investigated for Benghazi, legal precedent suggested that the requirements for president were set by Congress and couldn't be superseded. However, if Trump is found in violation of the law protecting Presidential documents, the legal challenge alone during his candidacy could be enough to sink his chances.
Republicans React to Mar-a-Lago Raid: Does This Sound Familiar?
Across the internet, far-right organizations have seen an immediate rise in calls for violence.
Domestic terrorist groups like the Proud Boys and other white nationalists who support Trump (and who showed up on January 6 in response to what they say was his orders) are ramping up their violent and threatening rhetoric in the 24 hours after the raid.
But there are some high-profile Republicans and Trump supporters speaking out as well, and they aren't being much more circumspect in their feelings about the raid. But for many of them, their words seem familiar - almost as if they've copied or by-wrote what the former President would ask them to say. Are they their own person, or mouthpieces for the man whose fame they rose to power?
GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy for instance, spoke out with unusual fervor in a statement he posted online; "I've seen enough. The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization. When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts and leave no stone unturned."
Representative Lauren Boebert wrote, "The GOP majority must defund all forms of tyranny throughout Biden’s government." She then tagged the FBI.
And former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote, "Executing a warrant against ex-POTUS is dangerous. The apparent political weaponization of DOJ/FBI is shameful. AG must explain why 250 yrs of practice was upended w/ this raid. I served on Benghazi Com where we proved Hilliary possessed classified info. We didn’t raid her home." It's worth noting that Clinton was neither a former president nor found guilty of any crime, but his words have received swift backlash online.
Also making the rounds since last night is the ominous warning from many Conservatives that a hiring of "87K new IRS agents" is a threat to the American people. Both Senators Ted Cruz and Pompeo have mentioned this bizarre conspiracy theory, adding variations of, "they'll come after you."
The parade of Trump-esque language goes on and on, online. It's clear that his supporters have rallied to his flag and are saying what they have either been told to say or believe will place them in good stead with him when the smoke clears. But what lays on the other side of that smoke is anyone's guess.