UPDATED: 08 AUG 2022 08:40 PM EST
The FBI executed a search warrant at the Mar-a-Lago estate of former President Donald Trump on Monday as part of an investigation into the alleged mishandling of White House records, including potentially classified material, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The Florida raid, which one of the people said took “hours,” resulted in the seizure of paper records, according to one person familiar with the development, who also noted that Trump attorney Christina Bobb was present during the search. It was a historic step by the Justice Department and FBI to investigate the residence of a former president, who is battling an increasingly complex thicket of legal threats. No former president — particularly one who is openly considering another bid for the Oval Office — has faced such a public law enforcement action, which immediately led to calls among his allies for recriminations and even the elimination of federal law enforcement agencies.
“They even broke into my safe,” Trump himself said in a lengthy statement decrying the FBI search and comparing it to Watergate. Trump, who was the first to confirm the FBI action, said in a statement that his resort was “under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents.”
“After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump said.
The former president was not present at Mar-a-Lago. Instead, he was at Trump Tower in New York City, according to a person familiar with the situation. His son Eric Trump informed him of the raid.
The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s offices in Washington didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Spokespeople at Justice Department headquarters in Washington declined to comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, the Secret Service and the Palm Beach Police Department deferred comment to the FBI. Two sources familiar with the matter said top Biden White House officials were not given advance notice of the raid, which could potentially alter the course of both the upcoming midterms and an eventual Trump-Biden rematch in 2024.
Though the investigation of Trump’s handling of presidential records has been percolating for months, it has largely remained in the background while the Jan. 6 select committee built a case that Trump committed crimes to disrupt the transition of power after his defeat in the 2020 election. The National Archives and Records Administration had confirmed in February that it had sought to recover 15 boxes of records from Mar-a-Lago that it deemed improperly removed, including some marked as “classified national security information.” The Archives confirmed at the time that it had been in touch with the Justice Department about the recovered documents. At the time, the Archives said it had had “ongoing communications” with Trump’s team about recovering missing presidential records.
The Archives also indicated that it was working to recover un-archived social media messages and that it had evidence that Trump tore up and destroyed some papers, not all of which were recovered. The Archives also confirmed in December that it was reviewing whether Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows had properly stored records from his personal phone and email accounts.
That investigation has also become an increasingly public threat to Trump, with some of his top allies and former White House officials facing grand jury subpoenas and FBI searches. Earlier in the day, the Justice Department defended its decision to seize the cellphone of John Eastman, the attorney who helped devise Trump’s strategy to seize a second term he didn’t win.
Federal investigators have pursued evidence that Trump’s administration mishandled presidential records and even removed some boxes to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
An executed search warrant would require the signoff of a federal judge or magistrate, who would issue the warrant based upon evidence of a potential crime.
The law enforcement moves at Trump’s residence came as lawyers and other observers have been bracing for action this month in politically sensitive Justice Department investigations as prosecutors approach a traditional quiet period for such probes in the lead-up to elections.
Meridith McGraw and Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.