A legal commentator described the FBI’s execution of a search warrant at the home of former United States President Donald Trump as “astonishing and unprecedented.”
The search was first confirmed in a statement issued by the former President who said his “beautiful home” in Palm Beach Florida, was under siege and occupied by a large group of FBI agents.
Trump did not disclose why the raid took place and the Justice Department does not comment on ongoing investigations but widespread reporting points to this being part of an investigation into his handling of presidential documents that might have been illegally removed from the White House to his private residence – which is a federal crime in terms of the Presidential Records Act.
With so many legal probes underway both at the state and federal level into the former President, it was not immediately clear what the purpose of the FBI search at his Mar-a-Lago residence was about. But it certainly sent shockwaves throughout the political establishment given the high-profile nature of the action, as Professor Penelope Andrews of New York Law School explained.
“It’s astonishing. It’s really astonishing. But it is also unprecedented. And it is. It is astonishing because it is unprecedented. But it is inevitable almost if one thinks about the various inquiries being made about the president and particularly the presidential records. So I think the fact that the FBI has gone into the President’s Florida home suggests that they have, you know, clear evidence that a crime may have been committed, and that they in doing the search, they will find something.”
The news of the FBI search came from the former President himself who released a statement arguing that America had now become a third-world country, that this was prosecutorial misconduct and the weaponization of the justice system. But Professor Andrews provided additional perspective on the legal rigour that would accompany the issuing of such a search warrant.
“Two branches of government were involved in the search. So the executive through the Justice Department and the Attorney General signing off on this, Merrick Garland clearly, you know, signed off on this. So do you have the executive as well as the judiciary, and the FBI would have needed to go to a judge to persuade the judge that it is compelling that they go and do a search. They will also have very specific pieces of evidence that they needed to judge to grant the warrant.”
The Justice Department usually does not comment on ongoing investigations but given the nature of this probe and the political pushback, the rules might indeed shift here.
FBI executes search warrant at the home of former US President Donald Trump:
Widespread reporting points to the removal of over a dozen boxes of documents from the White House to the former President’s private residence in likely violation of the Presidential Records Act that requires all documents related to the President’s duties to be preserved with the National Archives.
“Yesterday, for example, in the newspaper, we saw some photographs of former President Trump destroying documents by throwing them down the toilet. So I think that’s the first thing that the Presidential Records Act is clear those documents have to be preserved, protected, and sent to the National Archives, where they will be stored and obviously they are records for public consumption. But the second thing is that I think that some of the documents, some of the records are very, very high security, classified documents” Andrews explained.
Reason for the raid?
Republicans, including House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, warned that when his party takes back the House, likely after November’s midterm elections, they will conduct immediate oversight of the Justice Department as pressure builds on Attorney General, Merrick Garland, to explain the reason for the raid.
Professor Andrews says, “The threat by Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republicans in the House, is sort of suggesting that this is politically motivated and an insidious threat by supporters of the former president, that the FBI has been sort of a wing of the Democratic Party. So there is a threat that people are going to go out onto the streets, something like the January 6, insurrection at the Capitol.”