August 10, 2022
Former President Donald Trump said on Monday, August 8, that the F.B.I. had conducted what he referred to as an “unannounced” search of his Palm Beach, Florida, home on the grounds of the private Mar-a-Lago Club, and had broken open a safe—an account signaling a major escalation in the various investigations into the final stages of his presidency, reports The New York Times.
The search, according to multiple people familiar with the investigation, appeared to be focused on material that the former president had brought with him to Mar-a-Lago, when he left the White House. Those boxes contained many pages of classified documents, according to a person familiar with their contents.
Trump delayed returning 15 boxes of material requested by officials with the National Archives for many months, only doing so when there became a threat of action to retrieve them. The case was referred to the Justice Department by the archives early this year.
According to the Times, “The search marked the latest remarkable turn in the long-running investigations into Trump’s actions before, during and after his presidency—and even as he weighs announcing another candidacy for the White House.”
It came as the Justice Department has stepped up its separate inquiry into Trump’s efforts to remain in office after his defeat at the polls in the 2020 election and as the former president also faces an accelerating criminal inquiry in Georgia and civil actions in New York.
Trump has long cast the F.B.I. as a tool of Democrats who have been out to get him—and the search set off a furious reaction among his supporters in the Republican Party and on the far right of American politics. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader in the House, suggested that he intended to investigate Attorney General Merrick Garland if Republicans took control of the House in November.
The Times notes that the F.B.I. would have needed to convince a judge that it had probable cause that a crime had been committed, and that agents might find evidence at Mar-a-Lago, to get a search warrant. Proceeding with a search on a former president’s home would almost surely have required sign-off from top officials at the bureau and the Justice Department.
The search, however, does not mean prosecutors have determined that Mr. Trump committed a crime.
An F.B.I. representative declined to comment, as did Justice Department officials. The F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, was appointed by Trump.
Trump was in the New York area at the time of the search. “Another day in paradise,” he said Monday night during a telephone rally for Sarah Palin, who is running for a congressional seat in Alaska.
Eric Trump, one of his sons, told Fox News that he was the one who informed his father that the search was taking place, and he said the search warrant was related to presidential documents.
Trump, who campaigned for president in 2016 criticizing Hillary Clinton’s practice of maintaining a private email server for government-related messages while she was secretary of state, was known throughout his term to rip up official material that was intended to be held for presidential archives. One person familiar with his habits said that included classified material that was shredded in his bedroom and elsewhere.
The search was at least in part for whether any records remained at the club, a person familiar with it said. It took place on Monday morning, the person said, although Trump said agents were still there many hours later.
“After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump said, maintaining it was an effort to stop him from running for president in 2024. “Such an assault could only take place in broken, Third-World Countries.”
Research contact: @nytimes