Justice Department spokesperson would not confirm if attorney general authorized a search
Former U.S. president Donald Trump says his estate in Palm Beach, Fla., has been raided by FBI agents.
Though Trump released a lengthy statement Monday saying agents were searching his Mar-a-Lago estate, a U.S. Justice Department spokesperson said they had no comment when asked if Attorney General Merrick Garland had authorized the search.
A person familiar with the matter said the action was related to a probe of whether Trump had taken classified records from his White House tenure to his Florida residence.
Trump says the FBI broke into a safe on his property, an action he described as “persecution.”
“After working and co-operating with the relevant government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump said in his statement Monday.
Trump added: “These are dark times for our Nation … Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.”
The Justice Department launched a preliminary investigation into Trump’s removal of records to the Florida estate, a source familiar with the matter told The Associated Press in April.
That investigation comes after the U.S. national archives and records administration in February notified Congress that it had recovered about 15 boxes of White House documents from Trump’s Florida home, some of which contained classified materials.
The U.S. House of Representatives oversight committee at that time announced it was expanding an investigation into Trump’s actions and asked the archives to turn over additional information.
Jan. 6 committee hearing
The alleged raid on Mar-a-Lago comes as Trump considers a third White House bid. The action, which the FBI and Justice Department did not immediately confirm, marks a dramatic escalation in law enforcement scrutiny of Trump.
Though a search warrant does not suggest that criminal charges are near or even expected, federal officials looking to obtain one must demonstrate that they have probable cause that a crime occurred.
All this comes as a congressional panel continues to probe the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Its vice-chair, Liz Cheney, has said the committee could make multiple referrals to the Justice Department seeking criminal
charges against Trump.
Trump, in turn, has accused the panel of conducting a sham investigation.
In a March 2 court filing the committee detailed Trump’s efforts to persuade then-Vice President Mike Pence to either reject slates of electors for Democrat Joe Biden, who won the election, or delay a congressional count of those votes.
Trump’s efforts likely violated a federal law making it illegal to “corruptly” obstruct any official proceeding, or attempt to do so, according to David Carter, the California federal judge overseeing the case.
Trump could also be charged with “seditious conspiracy,” a rarely used statute that makes it illegal to overthrow the U.S. government by force.
To prove this, prosecutors would need to show that Trump conspired with others to use force, said Barbara McQuade, a law professor at the University of Michigan and a former federal prosecutor.