Word that the FBI was executing a search warrant of Trump’s Florida residence got out when the former president posted on his social media platform, Truth Social, that his “beautiful home” was “under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents.”
“They even broke into my safe!” the statement read.
One protester made a three-and-a-half hour drive to Mar-a-Lago to show support for Trump as soon as he heard the news.
Kennon was joined by about 50 other protesters and dozens of vehicles that lined the property. Many vehicles brandished Trump 2020 and American flags while protesters in patriotic garb cheered, yelled, blared music and honked their horns.
“You can’t trust the FBI,” Billy Sacco told the Palm Beach Post. “They’re doing something stupid.”
The New York Times, citing unnamed sources close to the investigation, reported the FBI’s search was focused on materials Trump allegedly took with him to Florida after the end of his presidency, including classified documents. Sources also confirmed the reason for the search to The Associated Press and Reuters, among other news outlets.
While the demonstration was going on, songs like Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down and AC/DC’s Highway to Hell could be heard blasting from car speakers.
A video posted by Jayne Zirkle, with Steve Bannon’s War Room, showed a truck sporting a Trump Pence 2020 sign, though former vice-president Mike Pence’s name had been crossed out.
Five police cars were also present at the protest, and an officer told the Palm Beach Post that the demonstration was peaceful and no incidents had occurred after a few hours of the protesters being there.
Occasionally protesters chanted “We want Trump” in unison, though the former president was in New York at the time.
Supporters also yelled at passing cars, asserting there was no evidence to indict Trump and that the FBI was a “joke.”
In the aftermath of the FBI raid, Twitter mentions of “civil war” skyrocketed.
“Civil War 2.0 just kicked off,” one user wrote on Twitter, with another adding, “Civil war! Pick up arms, people!” Another noted: “I already bought my ammo.”
According to Vice, similar messages were shared on far-right channels on Telegram.
“Civil war coming to America, there won’t be any more elections,” one member said.
Trump on Tuesday tried to turn the news of the FBI search to his benefit, citing the investigation in text messages and emails soliciting political donations from his supporters.
Trump tried to paint the search of his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach as a politically motivated move by President Joe Biden’s administration even as the former president plays a key role in Republican primaries ahead of the November midterm elections that will determine control of the U.S. Congress.
“As they watch my endorsed candidates win big victories and see my dominance in all polls, they are trying to stop the Republican Party and me once more,” Trump said in a fundraising email on Tuesday. “The lawlessness, political persecution, and Witch Hunt, must be exposed and stopped.”
Trump launched his Save America political action committee days after losing the 2020 election to Biden. It has more than $100 million in the bank, a formidable war chest.
Trump continues to publicly flirt with running again for president in 2024 but has not said clearly whether he will do so.
The FBI raid is one of several investigations that have focused on Trump since he left office, weeks after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an unsuccessful bid to overturn his election loss. Trump continues to falsely claim that the election was stolen through widespread voting fraud.
Trump remains the Republican Party’s most influential voice, though recent polls have shown a growing number of Republican voters supporting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as a potential 2024 candidate.
A federal law called the U.S. Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties.
Any search of a private residence would have to be approved by a judge, after the investigating law-enforcement agency demonstrated probable cause that a search was justified.
It almost certainly would also be approved by FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee, and his boss, Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was appointed by Biden. A White House official said Biden was not given advance notice of the search and referred queries to the Justice Department.
— With files from Global News’ Sean Boynton and Reuters