Trump: Feds conduct ‘unannounced raid’ on Mar-a-Lago estate

WASHINGTON — The FBI has searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an investigation into whether he took classified White House files to his residence in Florida, reports said. people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Trump revealed the action in a lengthy statement, saying officers broke into his safe in a search he decried as evidence of “dark times for our nation.”

The raid, which the FBI and Justice Department did not immediately confirm, marks a dramatic escalation in law enforcement scrutiny of Trump and comes amid a separate but ongoing investigation. intensifies on efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Trump and his allies immediately sought to launch the search as part of a Democratic-led effort to prevent him from winning another term in 2024, even though White House Biden has said he has none. prior knowledge and current FBI Director Christopher Wray was appointed by Trump five years ago and served as a senior official in a Republican-led Justice Department.

“After working and cooperating with the appropriate government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was neither necessary nor appropriate,” Trump said in his statement.

He added, “These are dark times for our nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently besieged, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida last year.

Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson declined to comment on the search, including whether Attorney General Merrick Garland personally authorized it.

Trump did not specify the basis of the search, but the Justice Department investigated potential mishandling of classified information after the National Archives and Records Administration said it had recovered from Mar-a-Lago 15 boxes of documents containing classified information earlier this year.

The National Archives referred the case to the Department of Justice. Trump has previously maintained that the presidential records were turned over “in an ordinary, routine process.”

There are several federal laws governing the handling of classified records and sensitive government documents, including laws that make it a crime to remove such documents and store them in an unauthorized location.

Two people familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the search took place earlier on Monday and confirmed officers were also looking to see if Trump had any presidential records. additional or classified documents in the field.

Although a search warrant does not suggest that criminal charges are near or even expected, federal officials seeking one must first demonstrate to a judge that they have probable cause for a crime to occur. is produced.

In his first public remarks since news of the search surfaced, Trump made no mention of it Monday night during a town hall telecast on behalf of Leora Levy, the Connecticut Republican he endorsed during Tuesday’s US Senate primary to choose a general election opponent against Democratic US Senator Richard Blumenthal. Trump gave Levy his public support late last week, calling her Monday the best choice “to replace a Connecticut senator’s joke.”

But in a social media post on Monday night, he was much more reckless, calling the search “a militarization of the justice system and an attack by radical left-wing Democrats who desperately don’t want me running for president in 2024. “.

During the 2016 presidential election, Trump sought to exploit an FBI investigation of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, into whether she mishandled classified information through a private email server she used as secretary. of state. Then-FBI Director James Comey concluded that Clinton sent and received classified information, but the FBI did not recommend criminal prosecution because he determined that Clinton had no intention of break the law.

Trump blasted the move, then stepped up his criticism of the FBI as agents began investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election. He fired Comey during that investigation, and although he appointed Wray months later, he also regularly criticized him while still president.

The investigation isn’t the only legal headache Trump faces. A separate investigation linked to efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election – which led to the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol – has also intensified in Washington.

And a district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, is investigating whether Trump and his close aides sought to interfere in that state’s election, which was won by Democrat Joe Biden.

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Meg Kinnard contributed to this report.

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