Trump revives false claim that Biden authorized ‘deadly force’ for Mar-a-Lago search

<span>Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Manhattan criminal court, on 21 May, in New York. He is estimated to have spent more than $100m on lawyers and other legal costs.</span><span>Photograph: Michael M Santiago/AP</span>
Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Manhattan criminal court, on 21 May, in New York. He is estimated to have spent more than $100m on lawyers and other legal costs.Photograph: Michael M Santiago/AP

Donald Trump’s campaign has issued another extraordinary fundraising request to supporters by doubling down on a false claim that rival Joe Biden was prepared to hurt or kill him by authorizing the use of deadly force during an FBI search for classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago compound in August 2022.

The claim has become a currency among some Trump supporters and is widely described by them as an “attempted assassination” – but rests on a misquoted section of FBI policy in a legal motion. Moreover, Trump was not even in Florida during the search.

The revival of the claim came late Sunday in the form of an email to supporters headlined:“This is an Alert from Donald Trump.” “DEADLY FORCE? Biden authorized it. They brought guns to the raid on Mar-a-Lago!” it read.

“I’m sick and tired of the Radical Left destroying this country and trying to destroy me,” it continued, before detailing raids, indictments and arrests Trump claims he has been subjected to for political purposes.

“Here’s the bottom line: I WILL NEVER SURRENDER. AND NEITHER WILL YOU!’ It concluded with a request for donations of up to $500 and a demand to “drop all charges” against him.

As laid out in the justice department’s justice manual. agents are permitted to use deadly force “when necessary, that is, when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person”. It is standard procedure in many cases and the execution of a search warrant on Mar-a-Lago was communicated ahead of time with Trump’s Secret Service detail.

In a statement, the FBI described the language as “a standard policy statement limiting the use of deadly force. No one ordered additional steps to be taken and there was no departure from the norm in this matter.”

Since leaving office in 2021, Trump is estimated to have spent more than $100m on lawyers and other costs related to various investigations, indictments and legal defense costs – or roughly $90,000 a day.

Most of those expenses are met by donations in to political action committee and campaign funds set up to contest the results of the 2020 election. But those accounts are running low, and the former president could be facing a cash crunch.

But Trump’s claims ignore the realities that fears of rising political violence during this election cycle are mostly focused on the threat from the far right.

“You know they’re just itching to do the unthinkable,” read the previous Trump campaign fundraising email, signed with the former president’s name. “Joe Biden was locked & loaded ready to take me out & put my family in danger.”

The government’s charges that Trump hid classified documents taken from the White House at the end of his term and then refused requests to turn them over is currently stalled by legal challenges.

But the sense that the government itself is working against justice in the case of Trump is a powerful fundraising tool for his campaign.

Trump’s latest assassination-warning email comes as his trial on campaign finance charges is coming to a conclusion in New York. Final prosecution and defense arguments are expected on Tuesday. Opinion polls suggest that the month-long proceedings have not so far moved the needle either way on Trump but merely served to reinforce existing opinions.

But a verdict could change that – or not. Either way both presidential candidates are likely to make political hay from whichever way it goes. Trump has made the dingy corridor outside the courtroom a campaign stage, with Republican allies turning up daily to show their support.

According to Politico last week, Biden plans to address the matter once a verdict is reached. But he may do so from the White House, not from the campaign trail, to show his statement isn’t political. But with political heat rising, the reactions of both men will likely be seen primarily through the political lens.