The former president confirmed the presence of FBI agents at Mar-a-Lago and said “they broke my security as well.” He was at Trump Tower in New York when the search warrant was executed in Florida, a person familiar told CNN.
“My beautiful home in Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago, is currently under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” Trump said in a statement Monday evening.
The unusual move to search the former president’s home raises the stakes for the Justice Department and Trump’s legal troubles continue on multiple fronts. Trump is expected to announce in the coming months that he will launch another bid for the White House in 2024.
The search began early Monday morning and law enforcement officials focused on the area of the club where Trump’s offices and private residences are located, a person familiar with the matter said.
The FBI’s search examined where the documents were kept, and boxes of items were taken, according to another person familiar with the investigation. After the National Archives retrieved White House records from Mar-a-Lago in recent months, the FBI had to verify Monday that nothing was left behind.
Trump’s son Eric told Fox host Sean Hannity, “You know the purpose of this search, from what they said, is to confirm whether or not the National Archives has any documents that Donald Trump has.”
Trump’s lawyer, Christina Papp, said the FBI seized the documents. “President Trump and his legal team have cooperated with FBI and DOJ officials every step of the way. The FBI conducted an unannounced raid and seized the paper,” Popp said.
There was communication between the FBI and the US Secret Service before Monday’s search warrant was executed, a person familiar with the matter said, allowing the FBI access to the estate without issue. Mar-a-Lago has only a small Secret Service footprint in Trump’s absence.
CNN has reached out to the FBI for comment. The Justice Department declined to comment to CNN.
A White House official said they were not notified of the search. President Joe Biden, a senior administration official, said he was unaware of the search for Mar-a-Lago until the news broke.
Inquiry into documents
In early June, a handful of investigators made a rare visit to the property to seek more information about classified material from Trump’s time in the White House that had been moved to Florida. Four investigators, including Jay Pratt, head of the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Division, sat down with two of Trump’s lawyers, Bob and Evan Corcoran, according to a source briefed on the meeting.
At the start of the meeting, Trump stopped and greeted investigators near a dining room. After he left, without answering any questions, investigators asked the lawyers if they could see where Trump stored the documents. Prosecutors led investigators to a basement room where boxes of items were stored, and investigators looked around the room before eventually leaving, according to the affidavit.
A second source said Trump stopped by to say hi and made small talk, but left while lawyers spoke with investigators. The source said some of the documents shown to investigators had confidential markings.
Five days later, on June 8, Trump’s lawyers received a letter from investigators asking them to further secure the room where the documents were stored. Assistants later added a lock to the room.
In April and May, Trump’s aides at Mar-a-Lago were interviewed by the FBI as part of an investigation into the president’s handling of records, according to a source familiar with the matter.
“Wrongful disposal of classified documents is a federal crime, so if you have to fill out that affidavit and list it as a crime, you can list it as a crime,” said Eli Honig, a former federal and state prosecutor. CNN Senior Legal Analyst.
Honig told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront” that the search was timed in line with a longstanding department rule not to make politically sensitive moves within 90 days of an election.
“Today is exactly 90 days from the midterms, I think maybe 91 or 92 days. That policy, that’s probably one of the reasons why they did it today, because they want to be clear if they explain it. The 90-day rule,” he said.
Members of the GOP support Trump
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Rona McDaniel said in a statement that Democrats “continue to weaponize the bureaucracy against Republicans,” and several Republican lawmakers came to the former president’s defense on social media.
“Attorney General (Merrick) Garland: Protect your papers and clear your calendar. I’ve seen enough. The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable level of weaponized politicization,” the president wrote. “When Republicans take back the House, we will immediately oversee the department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned.”
Florida’s GOP Sen. Rick Scott, “We need answers now. The FBI needs to explain what they are doing today & why.”
But the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which is investigating Trump’s handling of documents, called on the Justice Department to “thoroughly investigate” the former president’s handling of the information.
“Presidents have a sacred duty to protect America’s national security, and allegations that former President Trump jeopardized our security by mishandling classified information should warrant intense scrutiny,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York.
“While the details of today’s operations at Mar-a-Lago are still emerging, it is clear that the Department of Justice must fully investigate President Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified information.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Dana Bash, Zachary Cohen, Jeremy Diamond, Shawna Mizell and Megan Trimble contributed to this report.