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How are Republicans reacting to the Guiliani probe and the Mar-a-Lago search?


Let's take a look at how these investigations play out in the political arena. Joining me is Republican political strategist Scott Jennings. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT JENNINGS: Hey. Good morning.

FADEL: So, Scott, what do you make of this news that Rudy Giuliani is the focus of this criminal probe in Georgia?

JENNINGS: Well, I'm not surprised. I've always thought - and a lot of Republicans, I think, have believed - the Georgia investigation was the most dangerous to President Trump and the people around him. And obviously, that's playing out today - so not surprised. And I guess we'll see where it goes from here.

FADEL: Are these investigations, like the one we're seeing in Georgia, which has been going on for a while now, damaging for Republicans?

JENNINGS: Well, I think they're damaging for President Trump and for his inner circle that was working to try to change the outcome in Georgia - so certainly there. I don't think it's necessarily damaging for the overall Republican Party vis-a-vis the upcoming midterm. But certainly, if people are to be indicted in Georgia or anywhere else, I think that would be damaging. Sure.

FADEL: To Trump but not the party at large.

JENNINGS: Yeah, I think that's right. We haven't really seen evidence that - at least I haven't - that what Donald Trump did on January 6 around trying to overturn the election has had a large impact on the party in terms of its national standing. In fact, it's quite competitive nationally, and I expect it to do pretty well in the November midterm. But certainly to the people who were involved in that, yeah. I mean, this is - this has got massive reputational damage issues and certainly would have some impact on President Trump, I think, if he runs for president again.

FADEL: Let's move on to the FBI search of former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago home. Now that we know that these boxes that were taken from his home included classified and top-secret materials, does that change anything about Trump's standing in the GOP?

JENNINGS: Well, we have seen, I think, a snapback towards Donald Trump, interestingly. Maybe it's temporary, but the idea that perhaps he's being, once again, treated unfairly - I think that's one of the reasons why you've seen some Republicans in Congress ask to see the documents. They want to know whether this was a warranted action or not. And so this has some more room to grow here in terms of what we know.

And I've posited that, you know, if Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice want to tell the American people that he has potentially committed three pretty serious crimes, they really put themselves out there on a limb. And I don't know how you go back from this. And so it strikes me that if they don't indict Donald Trump at this point, it is going to be viewed by many Republicans as a - simply a political tactic that, you know, was an overreach to raid the former president's home.

FADEL: Now, you had spoken before about how, in some ways, there had been this movement to kind of step away - move on from Trump after the January 6 hearings. Has - and that has changed now?

JENNINGS: I think there's been at least a temporary snapback to Donald Trump. I do think Republicans were starting to move away. You could see it in some of the polling. Governor DeSantis of Florida was rising in some state polls and even in some national surveys. Certainly, Trump was still the front-runner. But you could kind of feel the interest in moving on. This has served to remind Republicans, you know, in some ways, who's the daddy and who's the kids in this run-up to the 2024 election. Again, it could be temporary, and we'll see how it plays out.

But this sort of constant trying to get Donald Trump that Republicans feel like has been going on since the beginning has, I think, created some reflexive defensiveness of him, even among some Republicans who are in my camp, which is, hey, maybe it's time to move on. We'll see if it lasts. But I think at least in the short term, it's true.

FADEL: And this search drew a lot of criticism and a lot of demands for the Department of Justice to show the documents. They unsealed the search warrant, the property receipt. And now there are demands from Republicans but also from the press for the affidavit. Will there ever be enough documentation? 'Cause we've already seen that, in fact, there were top-secret and confidential documents in his home.

JENNINGS: Well, I think Republicans, and some in Congress and some involved with the Intelligence Committee, and some Democrats as well - I think they want to know what it was. What was so important that you had to go into the home of the former president and probable candidate, you know, here 90 days before an election? I mean, he's obviously had these documents for a year and a half. What was so important that it had to be done right now? I think that's a legitimate question for Republicans who are - sit on the relevant oversight committees, particularly the Intelligence Committee. But, yeah, for the average Republican voter, there is going to be a question about whether this was necessary or whether this was political harassment.

FADEL: But what does this mean at the polls?

JENNINGS: Well, I don't think it's going to mean much, frankly, for Donald Trump long term. I - you know, I've thought he is still the least likely Republican to win back the White House. I do think in the short run, you may actually see some boost in Republican enthusiasm to vote. I mean, I think there's a sense that Republicans and President Trump are under some kind of a siege or assault, you know, because of this issue. And so you could see that President Trump supporters are even more energized to vote than they were before. It's hard to measure that...

FADEL: Right.

JENNINGS: ...But I guess we'll see in the coming days if any of the surveys bear that out. Again, I don't think these things necessarily negatively impact individual Republican candidates.

FADEL: Scott Jennings is a Republican political strategist. He is with Louisville-based RunSwitch Public Relations. Thank you for taking the time.

JENNINGS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.