The FBI’s Search for Trump’s Florida Property: Why Now?

WASHINGTON (Associated Press) – The FBI’s unprecedented search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence bounced back around government, politics, and a polarized country Tuesday, along with questions about why the Department of Justice decided — particularly cautious under Attorney General Merrick Garland. Take such a drastic action.

The answers were not forthcoming.

On Monday, agents searched Trump’s estate in Mar-a-Lago, also a private club, as part of a federal investigation into whether the former president took classified records from the White House. to his Florida residence, people familiar with the matter said. It represents a dramatic escalation of law enforcement scrutiny of Trump, who faces a host of inquiries. linked to his behavior in the last days of his administration.

From the echoes of Watergate to the House’s most urgent investigation of the January 6 Capitol uprising, Washington, the city that used to sleep in August, has been swinging from one speculative or accusatory address to another. Is the Ministry of Justice politicized? What prompted her to seek permission to search the property for classified documents now, months after it was revealed that Trump took boxes of items with him when he left the White House after losing the 2020 election?

Garland did not wave his hand despite protests from some impatient Democrats about whether the department was even seeking evidence that surfaced in the Jan. 6 investigation and other investigations — and from Republicans who were quick to echo Trump’s allegations that he was the victim of political stalking.

All Garland said publicly was “No one is above the law.”

A federal judge had to sign the memo after establishing that FBI agents had shown probable cause before they could get down to Trump’s house that is closed for the season—it was in New York, a thousand miles or so, at the time of the search.

Monday’s research intensified the months-long investigation into how classified documents got into the White House records boxes at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year. A separate grand jury is investigating efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, all of which add to the potential legal risk Trump may face as he lays the groundwork for a potential White House re-election.

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Trump and his allies have quickly sought to portray the research as weaponizing the criminal justice system and a Democratic-led effort to prevent it from winning another term in 2024 — even though the Biden White House has said he had no prior knowledge and current FBI Director Christopher Ray was appointed by Trump. five years ago.

Trump, in a lengthy statement, revealing the research late Monday, confirmed that the agents had opened a safe in his home, describing their work as an “unannounced raid” and likening it to “the prosecution’s misconduct.”

Justice Department spokeswoman Dina Iverson declined to comment on the research, including whether Garland personally authorized it. White House press secretary Karen Jean-Pierre said the West Wing first learned of the research from public media reports, and the White House was not briefed on it in the lead up to or after.

“The Department of Justice conducts investigations independently and we leave them with any law enforcement issues,” she said. “We are not involved.”

About two dozen Trump supporters stood at a mid-morning protest Tuesday in the Florida summer heat and scattered light rain on a bridge near the former president’s residence. One carried a banner that read “Democrats are fascists” while others carried flags saying “2020 Was Fake”, “Trump 2024” and an expletive Biden name. Some cars sprang up as they passed by.

Trump Vice President Mike Pence, a potential 2024 contender, tweeted Tuesday, “Yesterday’s action undermines the public’s confidence in our justice system and Attorney General Garland must bring full accountability to the American people about why and they must do this action immediately.”

“The director of the FBI was appointed by Donald Trump,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, said when asked about the Republican Party’s allegations that the raid demonstrated the politicization of the Department of Justice. She added, “The facts and the truth, the facts and the law, that’s all there is to it.”

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The notable lull on the raid was Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who declined to respond when asked about it while on a layover in his home state of Kentucky, which is beset by devastating storms. “I’m here today to talk about flooding and flood recovery,” McConnell said.

Trump was meeting late Tuesday at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey, with members of the Republican Study Committee, a group headed by Representative Jim Banks of Indiana that says it is committed to bringing his priorities to Congress.

The FBI contacted the Secret Service shortly before filing a warrant, a third person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. Secret Service agents contacted the Department of Justice and were able to verify the authenticity of the note before facilitating access to the estate, the person said.

The Justice Department has been investigating possible mishandling of classified information since the National Archives and Records Administration said it received from Mar-a-Lago 15 boxes of White House records, including documents containing classified information, earlier this year. The National Archives said Trump should have handed over the materials upon leaving office, and asked the Justice Department to investigate.

In an interview broadcast by Real America’s Voice on Tuesday, Trump attorney Kristina Pope said investigators said they were “looking for classified information they believe should not have been removed from the White House, as well as presidential records.”

There are several federal laws that govern the handling of confidential records and sensitive government documents, including laws that make removing such material and keeping it in an unauthorized location a crime. Although a search warrant does not necessarily mean criminal charges are near or even expected, federal officials looking to obtain one must first prove to a judge that they have probable cause of a crime.

Two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation, said Monday’s search relates to an investigation into the records. Agents were also looking to see if Trump had additional presidential records or any classified documents in the estate.

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Trump previously asserted that the presidential records were turned over “in a normal, routine process.” His son Eric said on Fox News Monday night that he spent the day with his father and that the search occurred because “the National Archives wanted to confirm whether or not Donald Trump had any documents in his possession.”

Trump himself, in a social media post on Monday evening, described the search process as “weaponizing the justice system, and an attack by radical left-wing Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for president in 2024.”

Trump took a different stance during the 2016 presidential campaign, repeatedly referring to the FBI’s investigation of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, over whether she had mishandled classified information via a private email server she used as Secretary of State. Then FBI Director James Comey concluded that Clinton had sent and received classified information, but the FBI had not recommended criminal charges.

Trump criticized this decision and then intensified his criticism of the FBI when agents began investigating whether his campaign had colluded with Russia to thwart the 2016 election. He fired Comey during that investigation, and although he hired Wray months later, he repeatedly criticized him as chief.

The investigation is hardly the only legal headache facing Trump. A separate investigation into efforts by he and his allies to roll back the results of the 2020 presidential election – which led to the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol – has also been intensified in Washington. Several former White House officials have received subpoenas before a grand jury.

and county attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, He is investigating whether Trump and his close associates sought to interfere in that state’s election, which Democrat Joe Biden won.

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Associated Press writers Terry Spencer, Meg Kennard, Michelle L. Price, Lisa Mascaro, Alan Fram, Darlene Superville and Will Weissert contributed to this report.

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