On Monday evening (8), Donald Trump himself released a note claiming that a group of FBI agents were conducting an operation at his home in MaraLago.
Eric Trump, one of the former president’s sons, said there were about 30 police officers.
Trump was in New Jersey at the time. It wasn’t a violent breakin because the FBI alerted the Secret Service protecting the former president ahead of his arrival, according to NBC.
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Inside, they spent hours searching the house. They even opened a safe. The Politico portal, citing a source familiar with the facts, said the agents took “paper files”.
“Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States,” Trump said in a statement, calling the searches “unnecessary and inappropriate.”
What is the FBI investigating?
The Justice Department and the FBI have not commented on the investigation.
Conducting searches against Trump, who could run for the White House again in 2024, is politically sensitive, experts say, and would require approval from Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
The FBI must have needed a court order requiring a judge to review the justification for entering a former president’s home. But the warrant, which could reveal the nature of the investigation, remains classified.
Seamus Hughes, associate director of George Washington University’s extremism program and court documents expert, said the South Florida Attorney was keeping the orders under wraps.
“Each judicial district can set its own local rules for public access to documents,” he said.
Eric Trump told Fox News the operation was related to allegations about a large quantity of documents the president took with him when he left the White House in January 2021.
Earlier this year, the former president had to deliver 15 boxes of these documents to the National Archives, the institution that controls the president’s records.
The Archives later informed the Justice Department that the boxes contained some highly confidential documents.
Monday’s research indicates there were more such files in MaraLago.
“The purpose of the searches, they said, was so that the National Archives wanted to confirm whether or not Donald Trump had any documents in his possession,” Eric Trump said.
Is it illegal to keep presidential documents?
The Presidential Records Act requires all documents relating to official affairs to be turned over to the National Archives. However, violating this norm has few consequences.
On the other hand, US law strictly prohibits keeping confidential documents, which can result in severe prison terms.
One indication that the investigation might involve classified material came during a visit to MaraLago in June by the Justice Department’s chief of export control and counterintelligence, according to CNN.
This department oversees cases involving national security, such as espionage and sabotage, and cases in which Americans lobby foreign governments.
Is Trump under investigation?
The search operation does not necessarily mean that Trump is being investigated for a crime.
The soughtafter documents may be needed for other investigations related to members of his administration, including the January 6, 2021 attack on Congress by hundreds of Trump supporters.
But the nature of the search, analysts say, points to something much more significant.
Andrew McCabe, a former deputy director of the FBI, told CNN it was inconceivable that this was simply material from the national archives. “You must have a lot more than that,” he said.
The United States Department of Justice (an entity similar to the Justice Department) did not explain the search of the former president’s home, and it is an indication that an investigation is being conducted under regulations, former prosecutors said Tuesday (9).
The FBI searches the Trump mansion to obtain official documents
Officially, the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland have said nothing about the search (not even confirming that the FBI was at Trump’s home).
Former prosecutors said the department was following the rules by not making any comments.
This is because a comment could harm an examinee.
2 of 3 photo montage with a picture of police cars in front of Trump’s home in Florida on Monday (9). — Photo: Terry Renna and Morry Gash/AP
Photomontage with an image of police cars in front of Trump’s home in Florida on Monday (9). — Photo: Terry Renna and Morry Gash/AP
What are the immediate consequences of the search?
The searches divided opinion: for some it was the first step towards a trial, for others a political prosecution aimed at attacking the former president who is considering running for a new term.
Never has a former White House resident had so much trouble with the law. Trump pleads not guilty and sees himself as the target of a witch hunt.
In a statement, he denounced the breakin at his Florida mansion, where he is not staying at the moment. “These are dark times in the country,” he said. “This unannounced slump was neither necessary nor appropriate,” he denounced.
“Nobody is above the law,” “not even a former President of the United States,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told NBC on Tuesday. Like most Democrats, Pelosi has held the tycoon accountable for years.
3 of 3 Donald Trump during a call at his home in MaraLago on Christmas afternoon — Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP
Donald Trump during a call at his home in MaraLago on a Christmas afternoon (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)
The judicial escalation appears to have brought the Republican Party closer to Trump, to the point of martyring him.
Trump supporters gathered in front of the luxurious house to express their outrage. On social media, supporters advocated a “divorce” in the country with such deep divisions.
What are the consequences for 2024?
House Conservative leader Kevin McCarthy has denounced “intolerable instrumentalization for political gain” by the Justice Department and promised an investigation into his actions if Republicans return to power.
Trump was even defended by his former righthand man Mike Pence, a potential Republican primary opponent whose relationship was rocked by the episode on Capitol Hill.
“I share the deep concern of millions of Americans at the unprecedented incident at President Trump’s private residence,” he tweeted.
The Conservatives’ favorite television station, Fox News, was also unrepentant. “Biden’s FBI Invades Home of Potential Adversary in 2024 Election,” read one headline.
Trump has already raised more than $100 million (an unprecedented sum for a former president) and can announce his candidacy for a new term at any time. For now, take the opportunity to ask your backers for more resources.
His team called on “all highblooded American patriots to come forward” and donate to fight what he called a neverending witch hunt.