The White House declined to comment on the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying that Joe Biden learned of it just like every other American, by watching the news reports. “I can say that President Biden has been unequivocal since the campaign that he believes in the rule of law, in the independence of justice department investigations, that those investigations should be free from political influence and he has held that commitment as president,” Jean-Pierre said.
Users on pro-Trump Internet forums have been agitating for civil war and spouting their usual white supremacist rhetoric, but NBC News found that among the users was at least one individual awaiting sentencing for his involvement in a previous insurrection. Tyler Welsh Slaeker wrote that he had to be careful with his words because he was awaiting sentencing for trespassing during the 6 January attack on the US Capitol.
The House select committee tasked with investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol is meeting today with Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state under Trump.
Biden signed a measure ratifying the US support for Finland and Sweden to join the Nato alliance.
The House ways and means committee won a major victory today when a Washington court of appeals ruled in its favor, ensuring that lawmakers will receive the much-sought after tax returns and audit files of Donald Trump. (Despite the timing, this ruling is unrelated to the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home).
Committee chairman Richard Neal sounded off on the ruling today:
NBC News reporters Ben Collins and Ryan Reilly were monitoring some of the pro-Donald Trump forums during the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. They discovered users agitating for “civil war”, urging supporters to make their way to Mar-a-Lago.
They also found that one of the users was Tyler Welch Slaeker, who is awaiting sentencing for his involvement in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
“All I can tell you is that the president intends to run in 2024,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in response to questions from Fox News reporter Peter Doocy on if Joe Biden wanted to run against Donald Trump again.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre doubled down on not commenting on the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.
“The president and the White House learned [of the search] just like the American public did yesterday,” she said. “We did not have advance notice of this activity.”
Jean-Pierre continued: “We are a nation of laws. We defer any incoming on this incident to the Department of Justice.”
White House was not given a heads up on FBI search of Mar-a-Lago
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at today’s press briefing that Joe Biden was not aware or given a heads up about the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.
“The justice department conducts investigations independently,” she said. “We leave any law enforcement matters to them. It would not be appropriate for us to comment on any ongoing investigations. I can say that president Biden has been unequivocal since the campaign that he believes in the rule of law, in the independence of justice department investigations, that those investigations should be free from political influence and he has held that commitment as president.”
Jean-Pierre then quoted what Biden said when he nominated Merrick Garland as attorney general. “‘We need to restore the honor, the integrity, of the independence of the Department of Justice in this nation that has been so badly damaged,’” she quoted Biden as saying. “‘I want to be clear to those who lead this department who you will serve. You won’t work for me. You will not be the president or vice-president’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me. It’s to the law, the constitution, the people of this nation, to guarantee justice.”
Biden signs US ratification for Finland and Sweden to join Nato alliance
Joe Biden signed a measure ratifying the US support for Finland and Sweden to join the Nato alliance.
“In a moment when Putin’s Russia has shattered peace and security in Europe… America’s commitment to Nato is more important than it’s ever been,” Biden said.
The House select committee tasked with investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol is meeting today with Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state under Donald Trump.
Attorneys for right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones accidentally sent his legal adversaries a nude photo of his wife that he had texted to the conservative political operative Roger Stone.
If you’ll recall, the family of a six-year-boy killed during the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting recently won a nearly $50m judgment against Jones after he spent years falsely claiming the deadly shooting was a hoax aimed at forcing nationwide gun control reform.
During the defamation trial, the family’s attorney, Mark Bankston, revealed that Jones’ lawyers had accidentally sent him two years’ worth of text messages exchanged by Jones and then failed to take steps to keep them out of court.
Bankston appeared on Monday on the Young Turks progressive news commentary show to confirm that one of the texts in question contained a naked photo of Jones’s wife sent to Stone, once an adviser to former president Donald Trump.
Read more here:
Today so far
FBI agents spent the majority of the day at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, where they have seized documents related to the removal of 15 boxes of presidential records from the White House, including classified documents, as well as the destruction of other materials.
Trump has previously come under scrutiny for his flagrant violations of the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which mandates the preservation of White House documents. With the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, there is some debate over the significance of doing so over the preservation of documents. While a legal expert told Politico Playbook today that if the FBI conducted the search of Mar-a-Lago just for the classified documents, Trump will be re-elected president in 2024, the Guardian’s Hugo Lowell pointed out that a violation of the presidential records act has serious consequences – including the disqualification from holding office:
Republicans have come out in support of Trump, with even former vice president Mike Pence, who Trump’s supporters called a traitor and demanded be hanged during the 6 January attack on the US Capitol, saying the FBI search was politically motivated. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy threatened to establish a special committee to investigate the justice department if Republicans take the House and he becomes leader in January.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to McCarthy’s remarks by saying that the Democrats will win the House in 2022 so his threats were idle.
Meanwhile, in an investigation unrelated to the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, the House ways and means committee has announced that a Washington court of appeals has ruled in its favor and that the committee will be receiving Trump’s much-sought after tax returns and audit files “immediately”. For a full list of all the current lawsuits and investigations that Trump is facing, click here.
In non-Trump news, Joe Biden signed into law the $280bn Chips and science act meant to boost domestic production of semiconductor computer chips.
Former Democratic presidential candidate and conservative bugaboo Hillary Clinton is using the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home for some tongue-in-cheek humor, and to fundraise for Onward Together, the political action organization that she founded in 2017.
If you’ll recall, Clinton’s emails were an oft-used red herring in the 2016 presidential election that she lost. When she served as secretary of state for Barack Obama, from 2009 to 2013, she used a private email server, situated in her New York home. She has admitted that this was a mistake, and while the FBI then deemed that this handling of classified information was “extremely careless”, neither she nor her aides should face criminal charges. That didn’t stop the chants from conservatives of “lock her up!” and the repeated rebuttals of “but her emails” whenever her name arose, particularly when the 2016 election cycle kicked up.
The irony, of course, is that in the end, the FBI never conducted a search of Clinton’s homes over her emails and no matter what allegations Republicans lobbed at her, no one has ever found any evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Meanwhile, here’s a handy list of all the current lawsuits and investigations that Trump – the candidate that won the 2016 election – is facing.
It seems many were a fan of Clinton’s humor – the hats sold out.
Former vice-president Mike Pence, who supporters of Donald Trump threatened to hang during the 6 January attack on the US Capitol, has waded in the fracas that is the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago and thrown his support behind his former president.
House Democrats to receive Trump's tax returns
In an investigation unrelated to the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, the House ways and means committee has announced that a Washington court of appeals has ruled in its favor and that the committee will be receiving Trump’s much-sought after tax returns and audit files “immediately”.
Biden signs into law the $280bn Chips and science act
Joe Biden signed into law today the Chips and Science Act, providing more than $200bn to boost domestic production of semiconductor computer chips.
“American manufacturing is the backbone of our economy, and it was hollowed out,” Biden said. “We let semiconductor manufacturing go overseas, and as a result, today, we barely produce 10% of semiconductors, despite being a leader in chip design, as well as research.”
He continued: “We know there are those who focus more on seeking power than securing the future, those who seek division instead of strength and unity, who tear down rather than build up. Today’s a day for builders. Today, America is delivering.”
Donald Trump and Republicans have repeatedly accused the Biden administration and Democrats of “weaponizing” the justice department and the FBI in having agents search Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. CNN’s Marshall Cohen pointed out that in actuality, it was Trump who tried to use the justice department for his own political gain during his presidency:
The big question behind the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home is that of the documents seized by agents.
As the Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports, Trump has previously come under scrutiny for his flagrant violations of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 – mandating the preservation of White House documents – and that the justice department was at Mar-a-Lago over the removal of 15 boxes of presidential records from the White House, including classified documents, as well as the destruction of other materials.
Some appear to be downplaying the seriousness of this offense. A legal expert told Politico Playbook today that if the FBI conducted the search of Mar-a-Lago just for the classified documents, then Trump will be re-elected president in 2024. “If they raided his home just to find classified documents he took from the White House,” the legal expert told Politico, “he will be re-elected president in 2024, hands down. It will prove to be the greatest law enforcement mistake in history.”
However, a violation of the presidential records act has consequences – most significantly, disqualification from holding office.
And this pertains even to the documents that have been declassified.
As the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, will tell you, it’s an election year and Republicans would very much like to take back the House. It comes as no surprise then that it appears that conservative organizations from the National Republican Congressional Committee to Donald Trump himself is using the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home as a call to fundraise.
“It was the home of every patriotic American who I have been fighting for since that iconic moment I came down the Golden Escalators in 2015,” Trump’s fundraising message reads.
Pelosi responds to Republican criticism of Mar-a-Lago search
House speaker Nancy Pelosi went on the Today Show to respond to the criticism from Republicans over the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.
In particular, she took aim at House minority leader Kevin McCarthy and his threats to create some sort of special committee to investigate the justice department if he becomes leader of the House in January.
“Whatever the leader is saying is probably idle,” she said, adding that she believes Democrats will win the House in the 2022 election.
“But nonetheless, we believe in the rule of law. That’s what our country is about,” Pelosi said. “And no person is above the law. Not even the president of the United States. Not even a former president of the United States.”
Kevin McCarthy threatens to investigate search
House minority leader Kevin McCarthy has been furious in the hours since the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.
McCarthy told Punchbowl News that when Republicans take back the House, he’s considering creating some sort of special committee to investigate the justice department and other governmental agencies. “I’ve got to talk to my members and see where we go,” McCarthy said. “We have to follow it wherever it goes.”
Punchbowl News noted that a select committee could exclude Democrats – running an inquiry through the judiciary committee or the committee on oversight and reform would require participation from both parties. But on Fox News, Republican congressman Jim Jordan, a ranking member of the judiciary committee, called for attorney general Merrick Garland and Trump-appointed FBI director Christopher Wray to meet with lawmakers when the House is in session Friday to vote on the reconciliation bill.
“Merrick Garland, Chris Wray, come to the House judiciary committee this Friday and answer our questions about this action today, which has never happened in American history,” Jordan said. “What was on the warrant? What were you really doing? What are you looking for? Why not talk to President Trump and have him give you the information you’re after? This is unbelievable.”
Reminder that the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home took place the same day as Washington’s great poop scoop: the Axios publication of an excerpt from Confidence Man, a book by the Trump White House correspondent for the New York Times, Maggie Haberman.
The excerpt included photos of folded-up paper, marked with Trump’s telltale handwriting in his favored pen, a Sharpie, submerged at the bottom of various toilet bowls, and purportedly backed up the claims that Trump periodically blocked up White House and other drains by flushing documents.
The Guardian’s David Smith has a great roundup of how Republicans have reacted to the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, claimed that the justice department had reached “an intolerable state of weaponized politicization” while Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, accused Democrats of “weaponiz(ing) the bureaucracy against Republicans”.
Here are some other reactions:
Far-right congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has gone on a tear, posting a photo of an upside-down American flag and calling for the impeachment of Joe Biden. Bear in mind that the FBI is currently directed by Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee.
Texas senator Ted Cruz invoked Hunter Biden and Hillary Clinton, arguing that the justice department ignored allegations against them but focused on Trump. Reminder that the justice department never found enough evidence to bring a case against either one of those individuals.
Greetings, live blog readers. Vivian Ho here, taking over a different sort of live blog today from my colleague, Martin.
Donald Trump has taken to comparing the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home to Watergate, the infamous political scandal of 1972 that led to the resignation of Republican president Richard Nixon. Interestingly enough, the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago took place on the anniversary of Nixon announcing his resignation from the presidency, which happened as a consequence of Watergate. But the similarities pretty much end there.
Watergate, if you’ll recall, was when five individuals with cash ties to the Committee for the Re-Election of the President – Nixon – broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office building in Washington. Those individuals were not working under an official capacity for the federal government, sanctioned by the federal government, whatsoever.
Barbara McQuade at USA Today explains quite why the FBI and justice department might be concerned about White House documents being left lying around a Trump residence like Mar-a-Lago. It isn’t just a matter of wanting to retain a complete record of Trump’s time in office for the sake of it. She writes:
Mishandling classified information is a serious crime because it puts at risk sources and methods of information relating to national security. If the content of the documents were to end up in the wrong hands, the identity of government sources could become known and their lives put at risk. Or our methods of collecting information, such as technological capabilities, could become known, undermining their utility. You can’t leave boxes lying around when they contain the kinds of government secrets that can get people killed, even if you’re the former president.
Richard Wolffe has written is column for us today on the topic of Donald Trump. He argues that, finally, Donald Trump’s misdeeds are catching up with him:
Sources close to the FBI (normally the secret code for the FBI press office) say that Monday’s raid was concerned with finding any more of those rogue records that mysteriously accompanied Trump to Florida. Trump somehow purloined 15 boxes of materials requested by the National Archives.
In the hands of any other president, these records might have helped with the writing of those all-important presidential memoirs. But in the tiny hands of Donald Trump, they are unlikely to be intended for book-writing purposes.
That leads us to speculate what kind of probable cause the FBI has to seek a warrant to bust open Trump’s safe. The pressing needs of the National Archives are almost certainly not the foundation for this particular exercise of law enforcement powers.
We obviously could speculate about the kind of papers the FBI might be looking for. There has been a singular tear in the time-space continuum around the person of Donald Trump on January 6 of last year. Secret service texts have disappeared down digital wormholes, along with Pentagon records. Presidential call logs appear mysteriously blank.
Read more of Richard Wolffe’s column here: Finally, Donald Trump’s misdeeds are catching up with him
George Conway, a lawyer and a Washington Post contributing columnist, has appeared on CNN early this morning in the US from Ventnor City in New Jersey, questioning what could have made the US attorney general, Merrick Garland, sign off on a search like this. Conway said:
You have to meet the basic standard of any search warrant. You have to show probable cause that someone – might not be Donald Trump – committed a crime and probable cause that there is evidence of that crime in the location being searched. And you have to particularise exactly what it is that you’re looking for. And you have to put that all in an affidavit that a federal judge reviews and then makes a determination that there is sufficient cause to invade someone’s privacy and to come into someone’s home and to do this.
That’s one thing, but this is a former president, and the political consequences, the national consequences, of going over your skis on this are just too huge for anything. But [it would take] the most significant evidence I think, that would justify Merrick Garland, who is a cautious person, to authorise this, and it had to be authorised by him personally.
And so you have to ask, what is it about this particular circumstance that has led the Justice Department to this step? Obviously, they don’t quite trust him [Trump], because they obviously don’t think that subpoenaing or requesting documents from him, will get them the answers they want, but what is it that they want?
Over at the Washington Post, in his analysis piece, Aaron Blake goes straight for what he sees as a weakness in Republican arguments that the FBI executing a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago is an unprecedented politically motivated abuse of the justice system. He writes this morning:
Trump has marshalled his army of supporters to declare, in knee-jerk fashion, any legal scrutiny of him a deep-state operation. It’s also an army that, it bears noting, was once quite consumed with the import of document security by would-be presidential candidates — and quite happy to promote the idea that their preferred candidate ought to “lock” such an opponent “up.”
Trump’s handling of government documents has long been a focal point. The question from there is whether this is a matter that merits a search warrant. That the Justice Department would go this route would seem to suggest it sees something potentially incriminating beyond merely shoddy record-keeping and document retention. The department knows this decision will be harshly scrutinized; going down this path only for its destination to be a minor finding, ending in a slap on the wrist, isn’t worth the blowback it’ll get from 40 to 45 percent of the country.
It also bears noting that this portion of the country was once quite laser-focused on keeping tabs on potentially sensitive government documents. Trump’s best attack on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign was her private email server. Many of those who raised alarm bells about that were very quiet when we learned that government documents had made their way to Mar-a-Lago.
If you missed it earlier, the Guardian’s Washington bureau chief David Smith offered this analysis, saying that Republicans have dusted off a familiar playbook to weaponise the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search:
Republicans responded furiously to the development, following Trump’s lead in claiming that the search showed the justice department waging a politically motivated witch-hunt. Their florid rhetoric will do little to assuage fears that a prosecution of Trump could lead to social unrest and even political violence.
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Countless times we have examples of Democrats flouting the law and abusing power with no recourse.
The Republican response on Monday drew from a familiar playbook: Trump has long maintained that the Russia investigation, for example, was a “hoax” and part of a “deep state” conspiracy against him. Scrutiny of his removal of presidential records, or his role in the January 6 insurrection, is likely to produce a similar backlash.
David Axelrod, ex-strategist under Barack Obama, said: “This is why Trump is going to run. He wants to portray any criminal probe or prosecution as a plot to prevent him from once again becoming POTUS. Many of his followers will believe it – as they did his lies about the LAST election.”
Read more of David Smith’s analysis here: Republicans dust off familiar playbook to weaponise Mar-a-Lago FBI search
You may recall Alexander Vindman, the retired United States Army lieut col who retired claiming he had been bullied by Trump and administration officials after he responded to a subpoena and testified in front of Congress during the hearings for Trump’s first impeachment.
Vindman has clearly woken up with a zing in his step today, and has fired off this tweet:
Hey GOP/MAGA/Fox News , if Trump and his henchmen can launch a campaign of harassment, intimidation, and retaliation against a serving Army Officer for testifying before Congress, it can happen to anyone.
Overnight Donald Trump launched a new campaign video on his Truth Social network, just hours after he had complained bitterly about his Mar-a-Lago residence being searched by the FBI.
The nearly four-minute video paints a bleak picture of life in the United States during a lengthy black and white section which opens “we are a nation in decline, we are a failing nation”, then bursts into colour later on with a promise from Trump that “the best is yet to come”.
The video stops short of saying that Trump will run for 2024, but is as close as you can get to an election campaign video.
Clearly filmed before the FBI executed their search warrant, nevertheless at one point in the video Trump tells viewers “we’re a nation that has weaponized its law enforcement against the opposing political party like never before. We’ve never seen anything like this. We’re a nation that no longer has a free and fair press. Fake news is about all you get. We are a nation where free speech is no longer allowed”.
After news broke that the FBI executed a search warrant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, some of his supporters gathered outside the resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
The scene also drew protestors.
Here is a video clip of what it all looked like.
If you need a quick catch-up, then here is a handy list of the current lawsuits and investigations that Donald Trump is facing. They include missing national records, which appears to have been the aim of the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, as well as investigations over the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January, election tampering in Georgia, E Jean Carroll’s defamation case and a criminal inquiry in the state of New York.
You can find them all here: What lawsuits and investigations is Donald Trump facing?
This is Martin Belam with the live blog in London, by the way. You can reach me at email@example.com
Summary and welcome
Hello and welcome to our coverage of the continuing reaction to former US president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate being raided by the FBI. We’ll also be bringing you the rest of the day’s US politics news as it develops. Here is a summary of where things stand at the moment:
Donald Trump claimed FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday and broke into his safe, adding that his estate “is currently under siege, raided, and occupied”.
The FBI executed a search warrant around 6pm ET which appears to have been related to an investigation into Trump unlawfully taking White House classified documents with him to Mar-a-Lago after his presidency.
The search appeared to concern boxes of classified documents that Trump brought with him from the White House to the Florida club, the New York Times reported, citing two unnamed people familiar with the investigation.
Trump released a lengthy statement following the search, comparing the FBI raid to “Watergate” and blaming it on “Radical Left Democrats”. “After working and cooperating with the relevant government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate ... They even broke into my safe!” he said.
Trump was not at the estate at the time of the raid and was in the New York area, according to multiple reports.
The White House said it had no advance information of the FBI’s search. Justice department officials declined to comment on any element of the search, including whether it informed the White House ahead of time, whether attorney general Merrick Garland approved the court-approved search warrant – or even if he was briefed on the raid. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said he didn’t know any more details other than what he read in the news.
The FBI obtained a warrant to search Mar-a-Lago because they were able to establish probable cause – to a federal magistrate judge in West Palm Beach, according to a source familiar with the matter – that Trump was unlawfully holding official White House records at his residence in Florida. The probable cause, in this case, was likely that the records were being kept at Mar-a-Lago. The very presence of government records at the resort is the potential crime, according to top former FBI officials who spoke to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity.
Former acting US solicitor general said today’s search makes it likely that Trump is the target of a criminal investigation by the justice department and said his lawyer should be advising him about possible jail time.
Journalists at the scene in Palm Beach reported that a crowd of supporters gathered outside Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home holding flags late Monday evening in Florida. NCB News reporter, Cristian Benavides, posted a series of videos of supporters at the scene. “The crowd near Mar-A-Lago continues to grow into the night following that search warrant earlier today,” he said.
Republicans responded furiously to the development, following Trump’s lead in claiming that the search showed the justice department waging a politically motivated witch-hunt. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy said the raid was evidence of “weaponized politicization” at the justice department.