The unannounced raid on Donald Trump’s property in Florida has shocked his supporters, enemies and observers around the world.
While Mr. Trump described it as a “dark time for our nation”White House officials admitted they knew nothing about the FBI’s plans to raid his Mar-a-Lago home.
It comes amid three separate ongoing investigations into the former president — one in Atlanta for conspiracy to commit voter fraud in the 2020 election, another in New York about the finances of his real estate company, and a third by a US House select committee. The US Capitol Rebellion.
What was the FBI looking for in Florida?
After Donald Trump’s presidency ended last January, officials found he had taken 15 boxes from the White House to his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.
This investigation was initiated by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the independent US government agency responsible for maintaining government and historical records.
After demanding he return the boxes, NARA discovered in January of this year that they contained government documents, including those “marked as classified national security information,” as well as gifts, letters and memorabilia.
NARA then referred the case to the US Department of Justice to investigate whether Trump’s unauthorized handling of the documents constituted a violation of federal law.
Some of the documents in the boxes are subject to the Presidential Records Act.
Passed by Congress in the wake of the Watergate scandal in 1972, it dictates that presidential documents are not the property of the then-president and should be turned over to NARA when they leave office to be released 12 years later.
Trump could also potentially have violated the appropriate handling of government documents legislation while still in office or face charges of obstruction of justice if he was found to have covered his tracks.
In April, it was reported that a federal grand jury investigation had begun and the Justice Department had made several requests — including a subpoena to NARA for the boxes and interviews with various people in the Trump administration.
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The case is ongoing, and although the FBI has not issued a statement in relation to Monday’s raid, people close to the case have said that it was the focus of the case.
It’s not clear what law enforcement officials were looking for, but there is likely additional evidence that would help the prosecution’s case.
They are trying to prove that Trump or his aides willfully broke the law.
That would mean producing evidence showing the Trump camp was told it wasn’t allowed to take the documents.
Their investigation will look at who placed the items in the boxes, any correspondence about them, and how they were transferred from DC to Florida.
What has Trump said?
In a lengthy statement published online, the former president said his home was “under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents”.
He was not there at the time, but was notified by his son, Eric Trump, who told Fox News that the search warrant was for a box of documents obtained from the White House and that his father had been cooperating with NARA on the matter for months.
This was echoed by Trump himself, who said he had “worked and cooperated with the relevant government agencies”.
As a result, he described the search as “not necessary or appropriate,” “prosecutorial misconduct,” “weaponization of the justice system” and “an attack by radical Democrats who desperately do not want me to run for president in 2024.” .
He compared his case to that of his longtime political rival Hillary Clinton, who he claimed: “Was authorized to delete and acid wash 33,000 emails AFTER they were subpoenaed by Congress.”
Trump added: “Absolutely nothing has happened to hold her accountable.
“She even took antique furniture and other items from the White House.”
A federal investigation was launched into Mrs Clinton in 2016 after it emerged she had classified information sent to her personal email account. It ended without her or any of her assistants being charged.
Torn up documents clog the toilets in the White House
During his presidential campaign and time in office, Trump has repeatedly attacked Mrs. Clinton, whom he called “crooked Hillary,” during the investigation into her email activity.
According to sources close to him during his time in the White House, he would often tear up official documents, forcing aides to tape them back together so as not to violate laws that prohibit people from destroying presidential records.
A new book by a New York Times journalist also describes how White House staff would find pieces of torn documents in the toilet.
More of his conduct while in office has been revealed by the House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6 riot.
Staff have told of how he regularly left the White House switchboard and took official business on his personal cellphone instead.
Such gaps in the call logs have caused problems for the committee, which is still looking into whether Trump committed crimes on the day the White House was stormed by protesters.
Change of tone of voice from the Attorney General
The FBI has not commented on the raid, with senior officials instead describing it as an “orderly execution of a search warrant”.
White House officials say they were unaware of the raid and watched it unfold in the media.
Typically, an affidavit is given to FBI agents in a given case, which is then reviewed by a judge.
But such a high-level warrant – of a former president’s private property – would likely have to be signed by Attorney General Merrick B Garland.
Mr Garland, the Biden nominee, is known for his caution – so Monday’s developments suggest a clear change of tone in the establishment’s handling of the matter.
As Sky News Washington correspondent David Blevins writes: “Not since the Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon half a century ago has America seen anything like it.”