© 2022 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Republicans loyal to Trump express outrage over the FBI's search of his home

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

For more on the implications of the FBI raid, we turn now to NPR correspondents Deirdre Walsh and David Folkenflik. Deirdre, let's start with you. How are Republicans reacting to this?

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Good morning. Republicans are largely using the same language we heard from former President Trump. He was the first person to confirm this raid. He described it as dark times and said the search of his home - it was under siege. The top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, called it intolerable and weaponization by the Justice Department. Without any evidence about the details, because we still don't know exactly what the FBI was looking for, many Republicans are tying this to a broader argument they've been making heading into their November midterms - that the federal bureaucracy is invading people's rights as parents, as individuals, et cetera.

Democrats so far have been pretty muted. Speaker Pelosi waved off questions in the Capitol yesterday and told reporters she didn't know what was behind the raid. This is an ongoing investigation, and the Justice Department and the FBI aren't talking about it or explaining what they were looking for. So so far, the chief reaction we've been seeing is from Republicans. So we're sort of getting an unbalanced message. Many Republicans are calling for the Justice Department to release information, but Trump's lawyers have the documents about the search warrant, and they could release them if they wanted to.

MARTINEZ: David, what about the conservative airwaves? How is this being portrayed there?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: I got to tell you, A, it's sort of swung in lockstep in full-throated defense of the former president, depicting him as a victim, depicting him as something of a martyr and also depicting him as the one person standing between an oppressive federal government and you. So, you know, if you look at Newsmax or PJ Media or The Blaze or Townhall conservative talk radio - one went on - a talk radio host went on Fox News and said that it looked like a preemptive coup. And you saw sort of the litany of Fox stars and figures presenting this in extremely dire, at times apocalyptic, terms. Let's take one of their up-and-coming stars, Jesse Watters. Here's what he had to say last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE FIVE")

JESSE WATTERS: I've never seen the base more angry. I'm angry. I feel violated. The whole country feels violated. It's disgusting. They've declared war on us, and now it's game on.

FOLKENFLIK: Watters also said this clearly comes from the top, making an allusion to President Biden. Although Biden, of course, has said that he has learned about this from the press, and there's no reporting to show otherwise. But this is still a narrative, not just on Jesse Watters' show, but repeatedly throughout Fox in other places, that President Biden orchestrated this to go after his political foe, former President Donald Trump.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, but - OK, so, David, why is this the message then when we know that the FBI just can't get a warrant without going through certain steps and getting a judge to sign off?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, if you're looking at Fox News, which is the most important player in all this, you know, they will acknowledge this, particularly in their news as opposed to opinion shows. But facts are often sloughed off as inconvenient, if they're acknowledged at all. This story plays into the - Trump's narrative, stemming back from his 2015 start of his presidential campaign and the idea of the deep state - this effort to discredit institutions and professionals and the so-called elites in government, outside of government, in the media - particularly those opposing Trump - and, in this case, in law enforcement. And it allows these figures to avoid talking about what Trump has done, what we know Trump has done, and what he is being investigated for perhaps doing. You've got separate investigations in New York City, in Fulton County, Ga., Capitol Hill, Justice Department. This gives a unifying message, and that unifying message, in fact, becomes talking points for Trump nation.

MARTINEZ: Deirdre, Trump has talked about announcing a run for president in 2024. Will this search, maybe, of his home affect or sway that decision?

WALSH: It could. You know, Trump - many of his supporters are urging him to do that and to do it sooner rather than later. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham - he's a close ally of Trump's - said yesterday he spoke to the former president. Let's take a listen to what Graham said about their conversation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LINDSEY GRAHAM: The one thing I can tell you is that I believed he was going to run before. I'm stronger in my belief now. Every Republican I've talked to - my phone has been lit up - what the hell are these people doing?

WALSH: And it could have the effect of potentially clearing the field. Many of Trump's potential political rivals, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, are rallying around the former president. Even Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who didn't vote for Trump and is a sharp critic, called on the Biden administration to release these documents authorizing the search warrant. Again, that's not really up to the White House. Trump could release the warrant himself.

MARTINEZ: And, David, Fox and other media on the right have really stood by Trump through thick and thin.

FOLKENFLIK: Yeah. But, you know, A, there have been signs of cracks in that relationship, particularly in recent weeks. If you looked at Fox News, you saw it starting to distance itself from Trump. And let's be clear, there was always an alliance of convenience for Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, who are the controlling owners of Fox News. Rupert Murdoch had wanted a direct line to the White House. He got it in Trump but always thought of him as sort of a compromised and flawed figure. The revelations of the House select committee investigating the activities of January 6 of last year have really cast Trump's actions and inaction in a very severe light.

You also have Fox dealing with two multibillion-dollar defamation lawsuits over the lies about election fraud that were peddled on its airwaves after the November 2020 elections. And you've had the emergence of Ron DeSantis, who's effectively been auditioning to be the champion of Trumpism without Trump himself. All of this - what's happened the last 36 hours, however, has snapped Fox back to Trump's side. And it's not only leading the pack, but it's trying to catch up to it, knowing that its viewers are already there.

MARTINEZ: The thing is, this isn't the only investigation that Donald Trump is dealing with right now. Deirdre, remind us of what else he's facing.

WALSH: Right. David mentioned some of this earlier. I mean, the House committee investigating January 6 is still interviewing witnesses. There's a federal grand jury who subpoenaed Trump's White House counsel, Pat Cipollone. There's a probe in Georgia about Trump's efforts there to overturn that state's 2020 election results. And yesterday, on Capitol Hill, the House Ways and Means Committee learned that a federal court ruled in their favor to obtain Trump's tax returns, something they've been trying to do since 2019. Trump could still appeal that, but obviously he's dealing with legal pressure on multiple fronts. But we do see, as David mentioned, some GOP officials are - you know, who were putting some distance between themselves and Trump, are now seeing the Trump base rally around him. And that's really serving to have them reflect that and respond with statements of support.

MARTINEZ: That's NPR's Deirdre Walsh and David Folkenflik. My thanks to you both.

WALSH: Thank you.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
Between now and Giving Tuesday, support the fact-based journalism you value with a financial contribution. Your investment keeps independent reporting available throughout mid-Michigan & beyond. Donate now to do your part to fund more local and national stories. Thank you!