The FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home drew wide reaction in Washington from Trump allies claiming the Justice Department overreached to lawmakers backing up the agencies unprecedented action.
Here’s the latest on what we know:
- Why did they search his home?: Two people familiar with the search told USA TODAY the action was connected to Trump’s alleged removal of documents from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago property when his term in office was over.
- What investigations involving Trump are there?: In February, the National Archives said it had contacted the Justice Department about Trump’s removal of classified material from the White House. An Atlanta-area grand jury is hearing testimony in an investigation of whether Trump tried to meddle in the 2020 election. And the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot concluded its first round of hearings last month.
- Politically motivated?: As Republicans lobbed accusations that the FBI’s search was an effort by President Joe Biden’s administration to target a political opponent, the organization that represents FBI agents defended the agency’s work.
- Mike Pence: “I share the deep concern of millions of Americans over the unprecedented search of the personal residence of President Trump.”
- Republicans vow to investigate: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and others in his caucus have vowed to investigate the Justice Department should Republicans win control of Congress in November.
- No comment: The Justice Department has not commented on the search.
Former President Donald Trump held a dinner meeting with a dozen House Republicans on Tuesday, and his guests said he radiated confidence despite the FBI search of his Florida home the previous day.
Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, tweeted out a photo of Trump and his guests with their thumbs up. Banks said that “House conservatives are united in standing with President Trump. We will Make America Great Again!”
Banks later told Fox News that he had never seen Trump “as fired up as what he was tonight,” and that members encouraged him to again seek the presidency. “Everyone in the room encouraged him to run for president again, and the sooner that he gets out and starts campaigning, the better,” he said.
Trump hosted the dinner at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The meeting was planned long before the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, but guests said the topic of investigations did surface during the meeting.
Members of the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservatives, have often spoken with Trump about plans for the 2022 congressional elections – and perhaps 2024 as well.
Another of Trump’s guests, Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-New York, tweeted: “Thrilled to report he’s feeling better than ever despite the Democrats’ endless smears against him. Trump 2024!”
– David Jackson, Candy Woodall
President Joe Biden was not informed of the FBI search on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, the White House said Tuesday.
“No, the president was not briefed, was not aware of it,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at the press briefing. “No one at the White House was given a heads up.”
Jean-Pierre said Biden learned about the search from public reports. “We learned just like the American public did yesterday,” she said.
Some Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for the search, accusing the FBI’s actions of being “politically motivated.”
Jean-Pierre said the Justice Department conducts its investigations independently and declined to comment on the department’s investigation.
– Rebecca Morin
BREAKDOWN OF THE TRUMP INVESTIGATIONS:Trump in midst of gathering storm of investigations. Mar-a-Lago document inquiry is one of many.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has found himself on the receiving end of Trump’s ire multiple times, finally broke his silence late Tuesday evening about the Mar-a-Lago search that happened a day earlier.
“The country deserves a thorough and immediate explanation of what led to the events of Monday,” he said in a statement. “Attorney General Garland and the Department of Justice should already have provided answers to the American people and must do so immediately.”
McConnell’s response comes as Republican leaders in the House and other GOP senators have called for an investigation into the FBI, Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., called for Garland to be impeached and for FBI Director Christopher Wray to be removed.
– Candy Woodall
Congressman Scott Perry, R-Pa., told Fox News the FBI confiscated his cell phone Tuesday.
Perry said he was traveling with family when three FBI agents showed him a warrant and asked him to turn over his phone.
Though the incident comes a day after the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, it’s unclear if the incidents are related. Perry has been linked to Trump’s efforts to overturn election results in Georgia and also asked for a presidential pardon, according to testimony during the Jan. 6 hearings.
Perry in his statement to Fox said the agents did not contact his lawyer, who would have “made arrangement for them to have my phone if that was their wish.”
“I’m outraged — though not surprised — that the FBI under the direction of Merrick Garland’s DOJ would seize the phone of a sitting Member of Congress,” Perry said. “My phone contains info about my legislative and political activities, and personal/private discussions with my wife, family, constituents, and friends. None of this is the government’s business.”
– Candy Woodall
Ex-Trump administration official criticizes Republican leaders for defending former president over Mar-a-Lago search
One former senior Trump administration official criticized Republican leaders Tuesday, saying their defense of the former president over the Mar-a-Lago search is hurting America’s standing on the global stage.
“Happy to see the FBI doing its job. No one is above the law,” said Lisa Curtis, who served as deputy assistant to the president and senior director for South and Central Asia on the National Security Council from 2017 to 2021.
Curtis told USA TODAY that is “very disappointed with most Republican leaders who won’t stand up for democracy in the United States and admit that January 6th has been enormously harmful to our country and its ability to influence global developments.”
“The United States is no longer seen as an example of democracy for other countries to emulate,” said Curtis, who has more than 20 years of service in the U.S. government, including at the NSC, CIA, State Department, and Capitol Hill. “It’s painful for me as I have spent the last 30 years of my career trying to promote our democratic ideals and practices overseas in places that desperately need democratic champions.”
– Josh Meyer
Constitutional and criminal law scholar Neal Katyal, the former acting U.S. solicitor general, challenged Trump on Tuesday to disclose the contents of the court-approved search warrant so that the public can decide if the Justice Department has engaged in an abuse of power.
Katyal, the Paul Saunders Professor at Georgetown University, said Trump could easily share the details of the warrant, since he was given a copy of it by the federal agents who executed the search, per U.S. policy.
“Search of Trump abusive? Law enforcement leaves a copy of the search warrant, which itemizes what they are looking for and what laws were violated,” Katyal said in a tweet. “If Trump/RNC think this search signed off on by a fed judge is abusive & they have nothing to hide, release the warrant to the public.”
– Josh Meyer
MIKE PENCE REACTS TO MAR-A-LAGO SEARCH:‘Deep concern’ over Mar-a-Lago search, asks for ‘full accounting’ from Garland
More than four-in-10 Americans believe former President Donald Trump should be charged with crimes related to his involvement in the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, according to a new poll published Tuesday.
According to the Monmouth University poll, 41% of Americans say they favor charging Trump. Of that number, 73% identify as Democrats, 43% are Independent and just 3% were Republican.
However, 34% said they oppose charging Trump, with 66% being Republican, 37% independent and 3% Democrat. A quarter of respondents said they are not sure whether Trump should be charged.
A House committee has been investigating the Jan. 6 attack and held a series of eight televised hearings in June and July.
Also from the Monmouth poll, a combined 40% of Americans said they definitely or probably would vote for Trump if he ran for president again in 2024. But nearly half, 48%, of Americans said they definitely would not vote for Trump and 8% said they probably wouldn’t support the former president.
The poll was published a day after the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. It was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from July 28 to Aug. 1, with 808 adults age 18 and older surveyed. There is a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
– Rebecca Morin
Donald Trump is looking to capitalize on the FBI search of his Florida home – through political fundraising.
In an email solicitation, Trump tells potential donors that “these are dark times for our Nation,” and the political establishment is “trying to stop the Republican Party and me once more.”
“As long as I have your support, I will continue to fight for the Great American People,” says the Trump email. “I need every single red-blooded American Patriot to step up during this time.”
– David Jackson
Many Republicans are rallying around Donald Trump after the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate – some more aggressively than others.
While House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans vowed to investigate the Department of Justice over the search, Vice President Mike Pence issued a tweet expressing his “concern” over the incident.
“I share the deep concern of millions of Americans over the unprecedented search of the personal residence of President Trump,” Pence tweeted.
Pence, who like Trump is considering a 2024 presidential run, also said: “No former President of the United States has ever been subject to a search of their personal residence in American history.”
Other Republicans, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, had not commented at all as of Tuesday morning.
– David Jackson
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, on Tuesday urged the Justice Department to explain the nature of its search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home so that it would not become political fodder for Republicans.
“It must be more than a search for inconsequential archives or it will be viewed as a political tactic and undermine any future credible investigation & legitimacy of January 6 investigations,” Cuomo said in a tweet.
In a second tweet, he added that the “bona fide nature” of the search could be used to discredit the House Jan. 6 committee’s investigation of the Capitol attack, which he said would be a “terrible disservice” to their work.
Cuomo resigned as governor after a New York Attorney General’s Office report found he sexually harassed 11 women.
– Ella Lee
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the Mar-a-Lago search recalled his 2006 decision to greenlight the FBI’s search of then-Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., Capitol Hill office, in the midst of a federal bribery investigation, the first time federal authorities searched a lawmaker’s congressional office.
“Because of the historic nature of it, I wanted to be sure,” Gonzales said, describing how top officials, including then-FBI Director Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty gathered to consider the action and its potential implications.
The reaction, as expected, unleashed a political firestorm.
Facing the prospect that the White House might order the return of documents seized in the unprecedented search, Gonzales said that he and Mueller were prepared to resign. No such order was issues, but a federal appeals court ultimately ruled that the search to be unconstitutional.
“There is a lot at stake here,” Gonzales said.
– Kevin Johnson
WATERGATE ‘IN REVERSE’?:Historians and legal analysts pan Trump’s claims and point to legal peril ahead
As Donald Trump and Republicans blast the FBI for its search of his Mar-a-Lago home, Democrats defended the search as an appropriate law enforcement action.
“Presidents have a solemn duty to protect America’s national security, and allegations that former President Trump put our security at risk by mishandling classified information warrant the utmost scrutiny,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Maloney, whose committee is also investigating Trump’s handling of classified information, said “it is clear that the Department of Justice must fully investigate President Trump’s potentially grave mishandling of classified information.”
– David Jackson
Alberto Gonzales, a former attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, believed that a law enforcement action of such magnitude would almost certainly have involved the sign-off of Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“Unless there was a serious breakdown, I have to think that this was approved at the highest level,” Gonzales said.
In order to proceed with the action, Gonzales said Justice Department officials would have to be “convinced that there was no other way” to obtain the information.
“It raises a number of questions that have to be considered: Why do you need to take the action? Why now? What has been done to obtain the information short of a search? Was there some kind of concern that documents would have been destroyed?”
– Kevin Johnson
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told NBC’s “Today” on Tuesday that “no one is above the law,” regarding FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s home.
“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.”
On House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s comments about the Mar-a-Lago search and “immediate oversight” of the Justice Department if Republicans win the House, Pelosi said, “whatever the leader is saying is probably idle.”
– Merdie Nzanga
The organization that represents FBI agents on Tuesday defended the agency’s work as former President Donald Trump and his allies derided the search of his Mar-a-Lago home as politically motivated.
“FBI Special Agents perform their investigative duties with integrity and professionalism, and remain focused on complying with the law and the Constitution,” said Brian O’Hare, president of the FBI Agents Association, in a prepared statement.
O’Hare pointed out that all search warrants are issued by federal district court or magistrate judges and have to comply with detailed procedural rules. Agents also work with Justice Department attorneys on its search warrants, he said.
Under the law, any search would need to be authorized by a federal judge after finding probable cause that a crime had been committed and that evidence of the crime exists in the location to be searched.
Agents executed a search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday in what two people familiar with the search told USA TODAY was an action related to Trump’s alleged removal of documents from the White House when his term ended in 2021.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN MAR-A-LAGO?:Was the FBI at Trump’s home? Answers to your questions
Trump called the search a “weaponization of the Justice System” meant to hurt him politically, a refrain echoed by his Republican allies in the hours after the search became public.
“It is prosecutorial misconduct, the weaponization of the Justice System, and an attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for President in 2024, especially based on recent polls, and who will likewise do anything to stop Republicans and Conservatives in the upcoming Midterm Elections,” Trump said in a prepared statement.
– Rick Rouan
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday said the Justice Department had “reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization,” and promised new investigations into the department if Republicans retake control of the House in the midterm election.
“Attorney General (Merrick) Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar,” McCarthy tweeted.
In an appearance on Fox News, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., should call Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray before the committee as soon as Friday to answer questions about the search.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said President Joe Biden’s administration was using the department to target its political enemies. But the New York Times reported Monday that White House officials did not have advance notice of the search.
Republican governors also rushed to Trump’s defense on Monday, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely seen as Trump’s biggest competition for the 2024 presidential nomination.
“They’ve been after President Trump as a candidate, as President, and now as a former President,” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem tweeted. “Using the criminal justice system in this manner is un-American.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism