FBI raids Trump’s Mar-a-Lago
The FBI executed a search warrant on former President Trump’s home in Florida on Monday, the ex-president said, lashing out at law enforcement for what he called “political persecution.”
“My beautiful home Mar A Lago in Palm Beach, Florida is currently under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” Trump said in a statement that included a link for donations to his political action committee.
“After working and cooperating with the relevant government agencies, this unannounced raid at my home was not necessary or appropriate.”
The remarkable execution of a search warrant at a former president’s home comes as the Justice Department has accelerated its investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and the actions Trump took to overturn the 2020 election results to remain in power.
It was not immediately clear what was examined during the search, nor what the search warrant specified, but Trump said the law enforcement officials “even broke into my safe.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to comment.
The New York Times reported that the search appeared to be focused on records that Trump brought with him to the Mar-a-Lago estate after leaving the White House.
Last year, the National Archives reportedly asked the Justice Department to investigate after authorities recovered 15 boxes of materials from Trump’s Florida home that should have been left with government records keepers. Among the retrieved materials were some that were classified.
The search would appear to be the first of its kind against a former president, but it remains unclear whether it’s a prelude to criminal charges, another scenario without precedent in U.S. history.
In order to have secured a search warrant, federal law enforcement would have had to show probable cause supporting their suspicion of criminal activity and get authorization from a federal magistrate judge.
In recent weeks, DOJ has been focusing on Trump’s efforts to remain in power through a false elector scheme, transmitting what campaign officials referred to as “fake” election certificates in order to reverse the 2020 election in key states won by President Biden. The department has reportedly convened a federal grand jury to investigate the scheme, in addition to the grand jury investigation into the Jan. 6 attack.
It also previously executed search warrants on two lawyers who worked with the former president.
DOJ seized the phone of John Eastman, who crafted memos for the campaign detailing the false elector strategy as well as a plan for then-Vice President Mike Pence to buck his ceremonial duty to certify the election results. And it also searched the home of Jeffrey Clark, an assistant attorney general Trump weighed installing as attorney general so he could forward an investigation into his baseless claims of election fraud.
But there are signs the department may have expanded its probe.
Last week, Trump’s former White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, was reportedly called to testify before a federal grand jury, as was his deputy Patrick Philbin.
The two men may be able to offer a more wide-ranging look at Trump’s actions leading up to Jan. 6. Cipollone pushed back against another plan by Trump campaign attorneys to seize voting machines. He also had concerns about the legality of Trump’s plans to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to testimony from White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson before the House select committee investigating the attack.
Kenneth Klukowski, a former deputy to Clark, is also reportedly cooperating with the DOJ investigation.
In his lengthy statement, Trump railed against the search, comparing it to Watergate.
“Here, in reverse, Democrats broke into the home of the 45th President of the United States,” he wrote.
The White House said late Monday they “did not have notice of the reported action.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland in recent weeks appeared to be more responsive to criticism that DOJ’s probe was lagging that of those by House investigators but has consistently denied the presence of any political motivations within the Jan. 6 investigation.
“We pursue justice without fear or favor,” Garland said in an interview with NBC News late last month. “We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding Jan. 6 or any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another accountable. That’s what we do.”
“It is inevitable in this kind of investigation that there’ll be speculation about what we are doing, who we are investigating, what our theories are,” he added. “The reason there is this speculation and uncertainty is that it’s a fundamental tenet of what we do as prosecutors and investigators is to do it outside of the public eye.”
Brett Samuels contributed.
Updated at 9:15 p.m.