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 CNN.
“My beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently besieged, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” Trump said in a statement late Monday.
The extraordinary decision to search the home of a former president 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 White House bid in 2024.
The search began early Monday morning and law enforcement 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 examining where the documents were kept, according to another person familiar with the investigation, and boxes of items were taken. Following the National Archives’ retrieval of the White House archives from Mar-a-Lago in recent months, the FBI had to verify on Monday that nothing had been overlooked.
Trump’s son Eric told Fox host Sean Hannity that “the purpose of the raid, from what they said, was that the National Archives wanted to, you know, corroborate whether Donald Trump whether or not he had documents in his possession”.
Christina Bobb, Trump’s lawyer, said the FBI seized 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 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 estate without any complications. There’s only a small Secret Service footprint at Mar-a-Lago when Trump isn’t around.
CNN has contacted the FBI for comment. The Justice Department declined to comment to CNN.
A White House official said he was not informed of the search. President Joe Biden, a senior administration official said, was unaware of the Mar-a-Lago search until it was reported on the news.
In early June, a handful of investigators paid a rare visit to the property to get more information about potentially classified documents from Trump’s time in the White House that had been taken to Florida. The four investigators, including Jay Bratt, the head of the counterintelligence and export controls section at the Justice Department, sat down with two of Trump’s lawyers, Bobb and Evan Corcoran, according to a source present at the meeting. .
As the meeting began, Trump stopped and greeted investigators near a lunchroom. After he left, without answering any questions, investigators asked the attorneys if they could see where Trump was storing the documents. The lawyers took the investigators to the basement room where the boxes of equipment were stored, and the investigators looked around the room before finally leaving, according to the source.
A second source said Trump came over to say hello and made small talk, but left while the attorneys spoke with investigators. The source said some of the documents shown to investigators bore top secret marks.
Five days later, on June 8, Trump’s attorneys received a letter from investigators asking them to further secure the room where the documents were stored. Helpers then added a padlock to the room.
In April and May, Trump aides at Mar-a-Lago were interviewed by the FBI as part of the investigation into the handling of presidential records, according to a source familiar with the matter.
“It’s a federal crime to remove wrongfully classified documents. And so if you fill out this affidavit and you have to list the crime, you can list it as the crime,” said Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor and State and a CNN Senior Legal Analyst.
Honig told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront” that the timing of the search stood with the department’s longstanding rule not to execute politically sensitive moves within 90 days of an election.
“Today is about 90 days exactly from half term, I think maybe 91 or 92 days. This policy, maybe that’s a reason why they did it today because they want to stay away if they interpret this as a 90 day rule,” he said.
GOP members support Trump
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel claimed in a statement that Democrats are “continually weaponizing bureaucracy against Republicans,” and a number of Republican lawmakers have come to the former president’s defense on social media.
“Attorney General (Merrick) Garland: Save your paperwork and clean up your calendar. I’ve seen enough. The Justice Department has reached an intolerable state of militarized politicization,” the Republican leader wrote. “When Republicans take over the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned.”
GOP Senator Rick Scott of Florida said “we need answers NOW. The FBI needs to explain what they were doing 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 solemn duty to protect the national security of the United States, and allegations that former President Trump endangered our security by mishandling classified information warrants intense scrutiny,” the Democratic representative said. New York’s Carolyn Maloney.
“While details of today’s actions at Mar-a-Lago continue to emerge, it is clear that the Department of Justice must fully investigate President Trump’s potentially serious mishandling of classified information.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Dana Bash, Zachary Cohen, Jeremy Diamond, Shawna Mizelle and Megan Trimble contributed to this report.