The FBI spied on Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence, people familiar with the matter said. It was a dramatic and unprecedented escalation of law enforcement scrutiny of the former president.
Trump outlined the search in a lengthy statement, asserting that agents had opened a safe at his home, and described their work as an unannounced raid that he likened to prosecutorial misconduct. He planned to meet with members of the Republican Study Committee, a group headed by Representative Jim Banks of Indiana, who says he is committed to putting forth his priorities in Congress on Tuesday, August 9 at his Bedminster, New Jersey club.
Monday's search intensified the months-long investigation into how classified documents ended up in boxes of White House records in Mar-a-Lago earlier this year. A grand jury is looking into attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and it adds to the legal danger for Trump as he lays the groundwork for another run.
Familiar battle lines, forged during a four-year presidency shadowed by investigations, quickly took shape on Monday night. Trump and his allies tried to keep him out of the criminal justice system in 2024 despite the Biden White House saying he had no prior knowledge of it, and the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, was appointed by Trump five years ago.
These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, has been raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents, Trump wrote. Nothing like this happened to a President of the United States before. After working with the relevant government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate, Trump said.
Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson didn't say anything about the search, including whether Attorney General Merrick Garland had personally authorized it.
A third person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that the FBI reached out to the Secret Service shortly before it served a warrant. The Justice Department agents contacted the Secret Service and were able to verify the warrant before allowing access to the estate, the person said.
The Justice Department is investigating the possible mishandling of classified information after the National Archives and Records Administration said it received 15 boxes of White House records, including documents containing classified information, earlier this year. The National Archives said Trump should have turned over that material upon leaving office, and it asked the Justice Department to investigate.
There are numerous federal laws governing the handling of classified records and sensitive government documents, including statutes that make it a crime to remove such material and keep it in an unauthorised location. A search warrant does not necessarily mean criminal charges are near or even expected, but federal officials looking to obtain one must demonstrate to a judge that they have probable cause that a crime occurred. The search on Monday was related to the records probe, two people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. Agents were looking to find out if Trump had any classified documents or presidential records at the estate.