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Republicans rush to Trump’s defense after FBI executes search warrant at Mar-a-Lago

<i>Morry Gash/AP</i><br/>Top congressional Republicans are rushing to former President Donald Trump's defense after the FBI executed a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida as part of an investigation into the handling of potentially classified material. Trump is seen here on August 5 in Wisconsin.
AP
Morry Gash/AP
Top congressional Republicans are rushing to former President Donald Trump's defense after the FBI executed a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida as part of an investigation into the handling of potentially classified material. Trump is seen here on August 5 in Wisconsin.

By Alex Rogers and Melanie Zanona, CNN

Top congressional Republicans are rushing to former President Donald Trump’s defense after the FBI executed a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida as part of an investigation into the handling of potentially classified material.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Attorney General Merrick Garland to “preserve your documents and clear your calendar,” warning of an oversight probe “when” Republicans take back the chamber in the midterm elections.

“The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization,” said McCarthy.

House Republicans briefly discussed the FBI search during a conference call on Tuesday, multiple sources tell CNN. Top Republicans made clear that they want to get answers and a full accounting from the Justice Department.

The call had been previously scheduled in order to discuss the Inflation Reduction Act that’s coming to the House floor Friday.

But at the top of the call, McCarthy kicked things off then turned things over to Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Mike Turner, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

They repeated their demands for accountability, but did not signal what their specific oversight plans will be if they win the majority.

Trump is also set to meet Tuesday with about a dozen members of the House Republican Study Committee, led by Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, at his residence in Bedminster, New Jersey, according to a person familiar with their plans, providing a timely opportunity for the former president to rally members to his side after the FBI search.

A July CNN poll found that a majority of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters do not want Trump to be their party’s nominee in the 2024 presidential election. But the former president still is powerful within the party; Republican candidates across the country have sought his endorsement in their 2022 primaries, and on Saturday, Trump overwhelmingly won an unofficial straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas.

Rallying around Trump, many Republicans, including Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, attacked Democrats instead after news of the FBI search, with some saying that Biden himself must be investigated.

“There must be an immediate investigation and accountability into Joe Biden and his Administration’s weaponizing this department against their political opponents — the likely 2024 Republican candidate for President of the United States,” said New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a member of House GOP leadership.

Turner, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, requested an “immediate briefing” from FBI Director Christopher Wray, saying the agency’s action was “unprecedented” and that he was “unaware of any actual or alleged national security threat” posed by materials in Trump’s possession.

Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, a potential 2024 contender, criticized Biden, saying that he “has taken our republic into dangerous waters” and called for Garland to either resign or be impeached.

“At a minimum, Garland must resign or be impeached. The search warrant must be published. Christoper Wray must be removed. And the FBI reformed top to bottom,” Hawley tweeted.

Former Vice President Mike Pence called on Garland to provide a “full accounting” of the FBI search.

“I share the deep concern of millions of Americans over the unprecedented search of the personal residence of President Trump,” Pence tweeted.

“Yesterday’s action undermines public confidence in our system of justice and Attorney General Garland must give a full accounting to the American people as to why this action was taken, and he must do so immediately,” he said.

While many prominent Republicans were quick to criticize the Biden administration and defend Trump, others took a more muted approach as questions remained around the cause of the FBI’s search.

At a news conference in Kentucky focused on flood damage, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to comment on the FBI executing a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. “I’m here today to talk about the flood and the recovery from the flood,” he said.

Hours later, the Republican leader released a statement calling for Garland to “immediately” explain what happened.

“The country deserves a thorough and immediate explanation of what led to the events of Monday,” McConnell said. “Attorney General Garland and the Department of Justice should already have provided answers to the American people and must do so immediately.”

Democrats responded that no one is above the law.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on NBC’s Today show that she first learned of the FBI’s search when it “flashed” on her phone, and repeatedly said she only knows what is public.

“We believe in the rule of the law,” Pelosi added.

And Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the House Oversight Committee investigating Trump’s handling of documents, called on the Justice Department to “fully investigate” the former president’s handling of information.

“Presidents have a solemn duty to protect America’s national security, and allegations that former President Trump put our security at risk by mishandling classified information warrant the utmost scrutiny,” said the New York Democrat. “Although details of today’s actions at Mar-a-Lago are still emerging, it is clear that the Department of Justice must fully investigate President Trump’s potentially grave mishandling of classified information.”

A number of Senate Republicans cried foul about the Justice Department taking action against Trump, a former and presumed future rival of President Joe Biden.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “President Trump is likely going to run again in 2024,” and noted the midterm elections are in less than 100 days away. “Launching such an investigation of a former President this close to an election is beyond problematic.”

The FBI search also quickly became a talking point in the Florida gubernatorial race. Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 Republican rival to Trump, tweeted, “The raid of MAL is another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents,” referring to the Biden administration.

Florida Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, shot back, “Governor DeSantis’s knee-jerk partisan response to this law enforcement action proves yet again he is more interested in playing politics than seeking justice or the rule of law.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

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CNN’s Morgan Rimmer, Kaitlan Collins, Rebekah Metzler, Zachary Cohen and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.

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