The FBI on Monday executed a search warrant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, as part of an investigation into the handling of presidential documents, including classified documents that may have been brought there, three people familiar with the situation told.
The former president confirmed that FBI agents were at Mar-a-Lago and said they “even broke into my safe.” He was at Trump Tower in New York when the search warrant was executed in Florida, a person familiar told.
“My beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” Trump said in a statement Monday night.
The extraordinary move to search the former president’s home raises the stakes for the Justice Department and comes as Trump’s legal troubles continue on multiple fronts. Trump is also expected to announce in the coming months that he will launch another bid for the White House in 2024.
The Department of Justice has two known active investigations connected to the former president, one into an attempt to overturn the 2020 and January 6, 2021 presidential elections, and the other into the handling of classified documents.
The search began early Monday morning, and law enforcement officials appeared to be focused on the area of the club where Trump’s offices and personal quarters are located, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The FBI search included an examination of where documents were kept, and boxes of belongings were taken, according to another person familiar with the investigation. After the National Archives obtained White House records from Mar-a-Lago in recent months, the FBI had to verify Monday that nothing was left.
Christina Bobb, Trump’s attorney, said the FBI had seized the documents. “President Trump and his legal team cooperated with FBI and DOJ officials every step of the way. The FBI conducted an unannounced raid and seized the paper,” Bobb said.
There was communication between the FBI and the US Secret Service before the search warrant was executed on Monday, a person familiar with the matter said, allowing the FBI access to the property without any complications. There is little Secret Service presence at Mar-a-Lago when Trump is not there.
CNN has reached out to the FBI for comment. The Justice Department declined to comment.
A White House official said he had not been informed of the search. President Joe Biden, a senior administration official, said he was unaware of the search at Mar-a-Lago until it was reported on the news.
Investigation into documents
The National Archives, charged with collecting and sorting presidential materials, previously said at least 15 boxes of White House records — including some that were classified — were recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
In early June, a handful of investigators made a rare visit to the property, looking for more information about potentially classified materials from Trump’s time in the White House that had been moved to Florida. Four investigators, including Jay Bratt, head of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence and export control division, sat down with two of Trump’s lawyers, Bobb and Evan Corcoran, according to a source present at the meeting.
At the start of the meeting, Trump stopped to greet investigators near the cafeteria. After he left without answering any questions, investigators asked the lawyers if they could see where Trump kept the documents. The attorneys took the investigators to a basement room where the boxes of materials were stored, and the investigators looked around the room before eventually leaving, according to the source.
A second source said Trump came to say hello and speak but left while the lawyers spoke with investigators. The source said some of the documents shown to investigators had top secret markings.
Five days later, on June 8, Trump’s lawyers received a letter from investigators asking them to further secure the room where the documents were stored. Aides subsequently added a padlock to the room.
In April and May, Trump aides at Mar-a-Lago were questioned by the FBI as part of an investigation into the handling of presidential records, according to a source familiar with the matter.
“It’s a federal crime to improperly remove classified documents. And so if you’re filling out this affidavit and you have to state a crime, you can state it as a crime,” said Elie Honig, a former federal and state attorney. CNN’s Chief Legal Analyst.
Honig told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront” that the timing of the search was done with the department’s longstanding rule of not taking politically sensitive actions within 90 days of an election.
“Today is exactly about 90 days from midterm, I think maybe 91 or 92 days. This policy, that may be why they did it today because they want to avoid that if they interpret it as a 90 day rule,” he said.
GOP members support Trump
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement that Democrats “continually weaponize the bureaucracy against Republicans,” and a number of Republican lawmakers came to the former president’s defense on social media.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., wrote that he had “seen enough.”
“Attorney General (Merrick) Garland: keep your documents and clear your calendar. I’ve seen enough. The DOJ has reached an unbearable state of gun politicization,” the Republican leader wrote. “When the Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts and leave no stone unturned.”
GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said “we need answers NOW. The FBI needs to explain what they did today and why.”
But the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which is investigating Trump’s handling of the documents, called on the Justice Department to “fully investigate” the former president’s handling of the information.
“Presidents have a sacred duty to protect America’s national security, and allegations that former President Trump compromised our security by mishandling classified information deserve the utmost scrutiny,” said Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York.
“While the details of today’s events at Mar-a-Lago are still emerging, it is clear that the Department of Justice must fully investigate President Trump’s potentially serious mishandling of classified information.”