The FBI raided former US president Donald Trump’s Florida resort and home, Mar-A-Lago, he said on Monday night.
“These are dark times for our Nation, as 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. “Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.”
The circumstances of the raid are unclear, but the Justice Department has been ramping up its investigations into the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol and Trump’s efforts to remain in power after he lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden.
The New York Times first reported that the search appeared to be related to classified material Trump brought with him to Mar-A-Lago after he left the White House.
The raid is an extreme move against a former president and would require approval from the highest echelons of the Justice Department. The Times added that the FBI would have been required to convince a judge it had probably cause to search the premises.
The FBI is led by director Christopher Wray, who was nominated by Trump in 2017 after his predecessor, James Comey, was fired.
The Washington Post added that Trump — who was not at Mar-A-Lago during the raid Monday morning — was not given a heads up about the search.
The saga surrounding the classified documents began earlier this year after the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of documents Trump took with him to Mar-A-Lago when he left the White House. The agency said in February that those boxes contained classified information and materials subject to the Presidential Records Act, which requires such items be turned over to the federal government.
Prosecutors have also reportedly homed in on Trump’s efforts to stay in power through widespread, and false, claims of voter fraud, as well as an effort to install slates of fake electors in battleground states that would circumvent the will of the people. The Washington Post reported last month that prosecutors had asked witnesses before grand juries detailed questions about meetings Trump held after his November, 2020 election loss and what instructions he gave his attorneys regarding the fake electors plan.
The Department of Justice has also issued subpoenas to senior White House officials in recent weeks, including former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and two top aides to former vice president Mike Pence.
The Justice Department investigations are separate from the ongoing investigation by the House select committee looking into the Capitol attack. Unlike Congress, Justice Department officials have the power to levy criminal charges against the president or others in his circle.
No former US president has ever been charged with a crime, despite investigations into misbehaviour.
Trump, who said his FBI agents had broken into a safe, decried the search warrant in his statement, saying the raid was “prosecutorial misconduct” that reflects a “weaponisation of the justice system”.
“Such an assault could only take place in broken, third-world Countries,” he said. “Sadly, America has now become one of those countries, corrupt at a level not seen before.”
“What is the difference between this and Watergate, where operatives broke into the Democrat National Committee?” he asked. “Here, in reverse, Democrats broke into the home of the 45th President of the United States.”
During his tenure, Trump regularly came under fire over his efforts to leverage the Justice Department to do his bidding. Attorney general William Barr resigned in December 2020 after the agency rejected Trump’s claims of voter fraud.
Republicans quickly condemned the raid. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy echoed Trump’s claims the search reflected a state of “weaponised politicization”, vowing to investigate the Justice Department and attorney general Merrick Garland.
“Attorney general Garland, preserve your documents and clear you calendar,” McCarthy said.