Trump believes that the Mar-a-Lago hunt will benefit him in 2024. Some allies are skeptical

 Trump believes that the Mar-a-Lago hunt will benefit him in 2024. Some allies are skeptical

A wild two weeks for Trump has reoriented his thinking about announcing a presidential campaign before the midterms, people who have spoken with him recently said.

According to three persons who attended the meeting the day after federal authorities searched Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump told a gathering of Republican politicians that "being president was terrible."

Some said he sounded ready for the job again.

"He was not to be discouraged," Texas Rep. Randy Weber, one of a dozen Republican House members who met with Trump on Aug. 9, said. He described Trump's mood in the aftermath of the search as "quite irritated, but measured."

According to those close to Trump, everything that has happened since that Bedminster, New Jersey, meeting — and since federal officials acquired a cache of top secret and other highly classified materials from his property — has put him precisely where he and his supporters want him to be. He's in a struggle, going up against Washington institutions and a political establishment he claims is trying to get him, topics he raised in his meeting with senators and subsequent contacts.

According to people who have spoken with Trump during the last two weeks, it has reoriented Trump's thinking on whether he should declare a presidential candidacy before or after the midterm elections. According to them, Trump feels less pressure to make an early announcement since potential competitors who would otherwise force his hand have gone into the background. However, there are other reasons to hold off.

On July 20, Rep. Randy Weber departs the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C.

According to one person close to Trump, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely, Trump is now likely to announce his candidacy after the November elections, in part to escape responsibility if an early announcement undermines the GOP's campaign to retake control of Congress. A post-midterm announcement would please Republican leaders, who have been pressing Trump to wait so he does not overshadow the party's candidates. Former Trump campaign and administration official Michael Caputo described Trump's recent behavior after speaking with him as "business as usual."

"He's already gone. "It's all business as usual for him," he explained.

Still, many in Trump's entourage fear he is ignoring the legal difficulties too soon, and that he is in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Two days after the Mar-a-Lago search, Trump asserted his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent 440 times in a New York civil dispute involving his business activities. On Monday, his longtime friend and former attorney Rudy Giuliani became the formal focus of an unrelated criminal investigation into suspected plans to tamper with Georgia election results in 2020. On Thursday, the former CFO of the Trump Organization pled guilty to tax fraud charges and is scheduled to testify against the former president's eponymous company in a New York court. On the same day, federal prosecutors argued in open court against unsealing the affidavit used to search his club, citing the danger of witness intimidation and obstruction of justice in their investigation into the sensitive papers housed at Mar-a-Lago.

The avalanche of information would normally derail any politician's presidential ambitions. According to six people close to Trump who have recently spoken with him but asked anonymity to speak freely because of the various investigations around him, they have heightened his drive to run for president, while simultaneously giving him a contradictory appearance of serenity.

They claimed Trump seems encouraged by an increase in fundraising, which occurred last week when his political organization raised $1 million in two days, according to a Washington Post article corroborated by NBC News. According to insiders, Trump also takes pleasure in polls showing him expanding his lead against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a prospective Republican primary. According to one of the individuals, Trump has also been buoyed by focus groups that show his popularity increasing among Republican supporters who were angered by the FBI raid of his house. On Tuesday night, his high-profile foe, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, lost her primary by a big majority, he was characterized as "over the moon."

"We do have issues. "He's aware of it," another Trump supporter claimed. "But the truth is that he needs a battle to focus." He now has it. He has a strong sensation that he is in the arena."

Even some of Trump's staunchest supporters are skeptical that his record of repelling grave threats will persist. While Trump maintains that the investigations are "hoaxes," surveys suggest that people do not, and some in his inner circle are not so sure.

According to one close Trump associate who thinks he'll run in 2024, the former president doesn't appear to be aware of his precarious situation, adding, "He may come closer to the prize, but in reality, he's sliding."

"It appears like the net is encircling him more and more, and his ability to dance around these things is going to become more difficult," this ally remarked. "It's a two-edged sword."

Another Trump associate expressed concern that the former president was not treating the probes seriously enough.

"Look, when I spoke to him, it was a little strange. "It was as if he didn't care about what was going on or didn't take it seriously," one person remarked. "He believes it's all nonsense." I do as well. However, bulls—- can still cause difficulties."

Those issues aren't going away anytime soon. During the court hearing to unseal the document, a Justice Department official stated that the investigation into the Mar-a-Lago records is still in its "early stages." The investigation might follow Trump throughout the 2024 campaign, forcing him to defend himself against a federal investigation backed by the US government's practically infinite resources.

Some close to Trump believe that the greatest urgent legal threat Trump faces is the criminal investigation underway in Georgia, where local prosecutors are investigating his alleged attempt to reverse the state's 2020 election outcome. Giuliani appeared before a grand jury in Atlanta this week after being told he is a "target" of the investigation, which his lawyer confirmed to NBC News. Giuliani and his team had no comment on his testimony, despite previously stating that he would not answer questions that might breach attorney-client privilege. According to one attorney, the former mayor of New York "showed up" as needed.

"Georgia is a far more serious probe," said the first source close to Trump who is aware of his desire to unveil his 2024 intentions following the midterm elections.

"I don't care who you are," the insider continued, "this wears on you."

For the time being, Trump appears to be solidifying Republican support following the extraordinary search of his residence. The FBI tapped into deep-seated Republican complaints that government institutions aren't trustworthy and are targeting their lone defender in obtaining the documents, according to various GOP insiders contacted by NBC News.

"I don't think his being in prison would prevent him from getting the Republican nomination," Republican consultant Brendan Buck said.

Sarah Longwell, a Republican consultant who runs focus groups with swing voters, said they appeared to be sliding away from the former president over much of the summer. Longwell noted that a prevalent fear among voters was that Trump had too much baggage and was doomed to lose a general election, but everything changed on Aug. 8 when the FBI showed up at Trump's door.

"The Trump rallying effect is genuine," she said, adding that "whether or not it sticks" is questionable.

The previous two weeks, according to Elizabeth Preate Havey, head of the Montgomery County Republican Committee in Pennsylvania, "have invigorated the party," and "even Republicans who don't like Trump and don't want him to be our nominee have taken this news with dread."

Trump is referencing the same trend lines. He has referenced a Politico/Morning Consult poll that showed him with a 10-point lead against DeSantis to allies. (The survey was taken on August 10, the day following the Mar-a-Lago search.) According to one source, Trump has also seen additional poll data that shows he shifted from being almost even with DeSantis in a multi-candidate 2024 race before the FBI investigation to leading DeSantis 52% to 20% thereafter.

Despite polls showing Trump's popularity among Republicans improving, he's struggling with independent voters, according to a new national online YouGov poll done for The Economist following the Mar-a-Lago search and released Wednesday.

When Trump does reveal his intentions for 2024, one of his properties may serve as the background. According to sources familiar with the situation, among of the places under consideration are Mar-a-Lago and the Trump National Doral golf club near Miami.

Both have the advantage of sending a message to DeSantis: Trump is not afraid to confront the incumbent Florida governor on his own territory. The announcement at Mar-a-Lago would be "a direct hit at Ron DeSantis," according to the first individual close to Trump.

Caputo, a former Trump administration official and campaign advisor, said he's not sure whether Trump wants to make his announcement at Mar-a-Lago, but he's certain Trump is no longer concerned about a credible primary opponent if he runs in 2024.

"I know he can raise as much money as he darn well pleases now," remarked Caputo. "There is no one to challenge."

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