WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The online response to the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago property has been swift and ominous, with predictions of a resurgence of extremism and even fears of a civil war.
But for the last 24 hours outside the 17-acre Palm Beach estate Tuesday, a convoy of local and national media have far outnumbered Trump supporters.
A couple dozen Trump boosters converged on the site late Monday as news broke of the FBI’s action, but by morning, even those meager ranks had begun to dwindle and had not picked up by 5 p.m.
“This is a great national story, a huge national story, and should be,” said Eric Johnson, a South Florida-based Democratic political consultant. “But local people, voters are going about their business, I don’t think matter one iota in local elections. They’re still talking about inflation, or whether beaches have too much erosion.”
A source familiar with the matter has told NBC News that Monday’s search was tied to classified information Trump allegedly took with him from the White House in January 2021.
In a written statement Monday, Trump blasted the search as politically motivated.
“These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” he said in a lengthy email statement issued by his Save America political committee.
But Trump had decamped the estate Tuesday for a scheduled event in Bedminster, N.J. — leaving the supporters to gather outside a mostly empty property.
Those who did turn out noticeably spanned the racial and ethnic spectrum, including supporters wearing Blacks For Trump, Chinese-Americans for Trump and Latinos For Trump gear.
Nelson Marti, 67, said he drove the nearly two hours from Hialeah, Fla., just outside Miami to support the former president.
“I think the FBI has lost all credibility, and what the Department of Justice is doing is disgusting — they crossed a line,” Marti said. He predicted Trump would sweep back into power in 2024.
“We want everyone to know that we support him, and that we’ve got his back,” Marti said.
Palm Beach County is far from safe political territory for Republicans like Trump. The county voted decisively for Joe Biden in 2020, though Trump did win over more affluent precincts. The county’s mayor is a Democrat, as is Lois Frankel, the area’s Congressional representative.
The Hialeah contingent, however, proved substantial. Also on hand was one-time Hialeah mayoral candidate Fernando Godo, 56. He said a mass gathering from Miami was being organized for this Saturday.
“I consider him the real president,” Godo said of Trump. He blasted Democrats as socialists and described the FBI’s search as a violation of the former president’s constitutional rights.
“It’s not good for the country,” Godo said. “We’re out here representing the people.”
Vanessa, a 24-year-old Palm Beach County resident who declined to give her last name, spent the afternoon walking her dog, Lucy, while gawking at the proceedings.
“I don’t know what they’re here for,” she said. “It’s a little weird to have it so close to me, but I’m excited to see everything here.”