Former US president Donald Trump said FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Monday and broke into his safe in what his son acknowledged was part of an investigation into Trump’s removal of official presidential records from the White House to his Florida resort.
Any search of a private residence would have to be approved by a judge, after the investigating law-enforcement agency demonstrated probable cause that a search was justified.
Neither the FBI nor the US Department of Justice (DOJ) have explained the reason for the search. Eric Trump, one of the former president’s adult children, told Fox News the search concerned boxes of documents that Trump brought with him from the White House, and that his father has been cooperating with the National Archives on the matter for months.
A source familiar with the matter also confirmed to Reuters the raid appeared to be tied to Trump’s removal of classified records from the White House.
In a statement, Trump said the estate “is currently under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents.” He did not say why the raid took place. “Nothing like this has ever happened to a president of the United States before,” said Trump. “Such an assault could only take place in broken, third-world countries.”
After news of the search was made public, Trump supporters rallied outside Mar-a-Lagos with US flags in support of the ex-president. Trump was not present at the time as he was in New York on Monday, Fox News Digital reported, publishing a photo of Trump that a Fox reporter said showed him leaving Trump Tower.
Trump is facing several probes from his time in office and in private business. He is under investigation for trying to change the results of the 2020 election, and also for allegedly taking classified documents to his home in Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.
In February, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) retrieved 15 boxes of White House records that should have been stored at the National Archives. A federal law called the US Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties.
“After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump said, adding: “They even broke into my safe!”
“It is prosecutorial misconduct, the weaponization of the justice system, and an attack by radical left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for president in 2024, especially based on recent polls, and who will likewise do anything to stop Republicans and Conservatives in the upcoming midterm elections,” he said.
“What is the difference between this and Watergate, where operatives broke into the Democrat National Committee? Here, in reverse, Democrats broke into the home of the 45th president of the United States.”
Journalist Garrett M. Graff said the search of Trump’s home indicates that an independent federal judge believed there was enough evidence to justify the execution of a search warrant. “This is one of the most significant, sensitive, and politically explosive actions the US Justice Department and FBI has ever taken – one of a tiny handful of times it’s ever investigated a president. Bottom line: The FBI and DOJ must’ve known they had the goods.”
The search comes as Trump makes more hints that he will run for president in 2024. “I ran twice. I won twice and did much better the second time than I did the first,” Trump said at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas on Saturday, adding “now we may have to do it again.” Criminal charges, however, could prevent Trump from running for office.
Trump supporters have accused the Democrats of weaponizing the federal bureaucracy to target Trump. Conservative commentators have said the US has become a police statement, making comparisons to the Stasi, the East German intelligence service, and the Soviet justice system.
Republican leaders also spoke out publicly against the search. “I’ve seen enough. The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a message on Twitter.
Mar-a-Lago is a Mediterranean-style villa adapted from the Hispano-Moresque style. It was built between 1924 and 1927 by billionaire heiress and philanthropist Marjorie Merriweather Post, who upon her death in 1973 bequeathed it to the National Park Service in the hope that it could be used for state visits or as a winter residence for US presidents. However, as maintenance costs exceeded the funds contributed by Post and due to the difficulty of securing the estate (which is located on the flight path of Palm Beach Airport), the property was returned to the Post Foundation. In 1985, it was purchased by Donald Trump for around $10 million, and he continued to use it upon becoming president in 2017. The 126-room, 10,000-square-foot complex also contains the exclusive Mar-a-Lago Club. The Trump family maintains their private living quarters in an enclosed area of the estate and gardens.