Monday, September 26

FBI searches Trump safe at Mar-a-Lago club, former president says

Former President Donald Trump said Monday that the FBI had raided his Mar-a-Lago estate.

“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 released through his political action committee, Save America.

The FBI declined to comment on whether it had conducted a search of the former president’s property.

A person familiar with the investigation said agents were conducting a court-authorized search as they probe the potential mishandling of classified documents that were shipped to Mar-a-Lago.

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Such a move — a court-ordered search of Trump’s property to look for possible evidence of a crime — is deeply unusual for a former president. It represents a historic moment in Trump’s tortured relationship with the Justice Department, both in and out of the White House.

To take such a step would require approval at the highest levels of the Justice Department. A department spokeswoman declined to comment when asked if Attorney General Merrick Garland approved the step.

Trump said the raid was “unannounced” and claimed it was not “necessary or appropriate.” The former president, without evidence, accused Democrats of weaponizing the “justice system” against him.

In a lengthy statement in which he equated the raid to Watergate, Trump accused the FBI of “even” breaking into his safe but provided no further details on what federal agents were looking for, or what else happened during their visit.

Advisers said Trump was not at the club, which is closed in the hot months of Florida’s summer, when the search was conducted. The former president has spent much of the summer at Bedminster, his golf resort in New Jersey.

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Trump’s team was given no heads up on the search, several advisers said. Evan Corcoran, a lawyer representing Trump, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In January, the National Archives and Records Administration retrieved 15 boxes of documents and other items from Mar-a-Lago that Archives officials said should have been turned over when Trump left the White House.

Their action indicated there were questions about whether Trump violated the Presidential Records Act, which requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties.

“The Presidential Records Act is critical to our democracy, in which the government is held accountable by the people,” Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said in a statement in February.

At the time, Ferriero said in a statement that Trump representatives were “continuing to search” for additional records.

Advisers, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss Trump’s actions, have said that he mishandled documents for years, largely by ripping them up. They described an ad hoc packing process at the end of his term, in which Trump and his family took boxes of material that should have gone to the National Archives. The archives only learned some of the material was missing after they tried to locate items for cataloguing.

Trump advisers have denied any bad intent, saying the boxes contained mementos from his presidency.

The search of Trump’s home is the most aggressive to date by federal agents and prosecutors examining the conduct of the president and his inner circle of advisers.

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Trump actions, conversations part of Justice Dept. Jan. 6 criminal probe

Separate from the investigation into the handling of documents, a federal grand jury in Washington has been gathering information about efforts by Trump lawyers and advocates to try to use fake electors to block Joe Biden from formally becoming president after the 2020 election.

As part of that investigation, authorities have begun examining Trump’s actions, seeking to understand, at a minimum, what instructions he gave to subordinates, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Federal investigators are also working up from their criminal investigations of the hundreds of Trump supporters who took part in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to see who, if anyone, tried to orchestrate violence in order to stop the formal congressional ceremony confirming Biden’s election victory.

It was not immediately clear on Monday whether the Justice Department has moved before to search the residence of a former president. In June 1975, Richard M. Nixon did meet behind closed doors with Watergate prosecutors and two grand jurors near his home in San Clemente, Calif. — 10 months after leaving the White House and after he was pardoned by his successor, President Gerald Ford.

Following lengthy negotiations, Nixon spent 11 hours over two days providing testimony to a federal grand jury investigating the Watergate break-in and cover-up.

Perry Stein and Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

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