How Florida politicians are reacting to FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago

GOP loyalists rallied around Trump while some Democrats promoted the news on social media.
Former president Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Former president Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. [ CHARLES TRAINOR JR. | Miami Herald ]
Published Aug. 9, 2022|Updated Aug. 9, 2022

It didn’t take long for Florida’s politicians to react to the news that the FBI had executed a search warrant at the Mar-a-Lago home of former President Donald Trump.

Trump and his allies sought to cast the search as a weaponization of the criminal justice system and a Democratic-driven effort to keep him from winning another term in 2024 — even though the Biden White House said it had no prior knowledge of it, and the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, was appointed by Trump five years ago and served as a high-ranking official in a Republican-led Justice Department.

While Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t immediately comment on the sudden news Monday, his spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, did — by evoking a Sinclair Lewis dystopian novel about the rise of an American dictator.

“Anyone who knows about my background before I came to Florida,” Pushaw tweeted, “will understand why the politicization of the FBI/DOJ, or even the appearance of it, scares me more than anything else. We Americans like to tell ourselves ‘it couldn’t happen here,’ ... until it happens.”

Republicans, including DeSantis and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, repeatedly compared the search to the actions of a third world dictator.

“Using government power to persecute political opponents is something we have seen many times from 3rd world Marxist dictatorships. But never before in America,” Rubio wrote. He later posted a two-minute video railing against the search, calling it an attempt by the Biden administration to ”persecute their past or future political opponents.”

And from Scott: “The FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago 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.”

DeSantis criticized the search by referencing conspiracy theories about Pres. Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, as did GOP congressmen Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody appeared on Fox News later Monday night to criticize the search and demand the FBI release more information about it, echoing DeSantis.

“For the integrity of this institution, there needs to be immediate transparency,” Moody said.

Trump acolyte Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, was among the first to provide an opinion. He tweeted out Trump’s statement while adding his own commentary that “it’s time to completely gut the FBI and (Department of Justice). They are not capable of being reformed.”

Some Democrats, meanwhile, pounced.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando fired back at DeSantis’ response to the search, saying DeSantis has weaponized state agencies in the same way the governor was accusing the Biden administration of weaponizing federal law enforcement.

“DeSantis weaponized nearly every state agency and department against LGBTQ Floridians... Pure projection from an authoritarian leader and master propagandist,” he tweeted.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, also of Orlando, parried a tweet by the Florida GOP that she wouldn’t denounce antifa.

“I’m sure it’s only a coincidence that the Republican Party of Florida is trolling me while Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home gets raided,” Eskamani tweeted. “This is the party of distraction, deflection, and projection. Don’t be fooled; hold them accountable instead.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is running for governor, passed on the opportunity to pile on Republicans. Instead, Fried chose to take a swipe at her rival for the Democratic nomination. She simply posted a photo of that rival, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, in an old photo with Trump.

Fried later tweeted:

“It bears repeating: Trump never held a fundraiser for me at Mar-a-Lago. And I’m the only candidate for governor of Florida who can say that,” she said, referencing Trump’s support of DeSantis, and his past support of Crist.

Crist, meanwhile, used the search as an opportunity to draw parallels between Trump and DeSantis.

“Trump in 2020. DeSantis in 2022. We’re putting an end to dictators-in-chief. Pass it on,” Crist tweeted.

He later responded to the governor’s tweet comparing the Biden Administration to a “banana republic” — a term used to describe autocracies in 20th century Latin America where corporations wielded political power.

“Ron DeSantis attacks law enforcement for legally raiding Mar-a-Lago while he’s yet to say anything about the heinous Nazis in our state who’ve been rallying in support of him. Also, attacking a private company, Disney, for free speech is about as “banana republic” as it gets.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story