The FBI search operation of former US President Donald Trump’s mansion in Palm Beach, Florida was unprecedented and surprised the United States. However, information about the review of the sumptuous property at the Mar-a-Lago resort remains scarce. The following is what is known so far.
How was the operation?
On the morning of Monday 9th, a group of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI, the US federal police) – about 30, according to an estimate by Trump’s son Eric – arrived in Mar-a-Lago.
Trump was in New Jersey at the time. It wasn’t a forcible break-in, as the FBI warned the Secret Service, which protects the former president, before arriving, according to the network. NBC.
Inside, they spent hours searching the house. They even opened a safe. The portal Politicalciting a source familiar with the facts, indicated that the agents took “paper records”.
“Nothing like this has ever happened to a president of the United States before,” Trump said in a statement, describing the searches as “unnecessary and inappropriate.”
What is the FBI investigating?
The Justice Department and the FBI have not commented on the investigation.
According to experts, conducting searches aimed at Trump, who could run for the White House again in 2024, is something so politically sensitive that it would need to be approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
The FBI must have needed a court order, which would have required a judge to review the justification for entering a former president’s home. But the warrant, which could reveal the nature of the investigation, remains secret.
Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the George Washington University Program on Extremism and an expert on court documents, said the South Florida federal prosecutor is keeping the orders sealed.
“Each judicial district can establish its own local rules for public access to documents,” he explained.
Eric Trump told Fox News that the operation was related to allegations over a large amount of documents the president took with him when he left the White House in January 2021.
Earlier this year, the former president was required to deliver 15 boxes of these documents to the National Archives, the institution that controls presidential records.
The Archives later informed the Department of Justice that the boxes included some highly confidential documents.
Monday’s searches suggest there were more such files in Mar-a-Lago.
“The purpose of the searches, from what they said, was because the National Archives wanted to corroborate whether or not Donald Trump had any documents in his possession,” said Eric Trump.
Is it illegal to keep presidential documents?
The Presidential Records Act mandates that all documents relating to official matters must be turned over to the National Archives. But violating this rule has few consequences.
On the other hand, US law strictly prohibits people from retaining confidential documents, which can lead to severe prison sentences.
One indication that the investigation could involve classified materials was a visit to Mar-a-Lago in June by the head of the Department of Justice’s Export Control and Counterintelligence Section, according to the report. CNN.
This section oversees cases that affect national security, such as espionage and sabotage, as well as those involving Americans doing lobby by foreign governments.
Is Trump Under Investigation?
The search operation does not necessarily mean that Trump is under investigation for a crime.
The documents sought may be needed for other investigations linked to members of his administration, including the investigation of the January 6, 2021, attack on Congress by hundreds of Trump supporters.
But the nature of the searches, analysts say, suggests something much more significant.
Andrew McCabe, a former deputy director of the FBI, told CNN that it seems unimaginable that it is simply material from the National Archives. “They must have a lot more than that,” she said.