Law enforcement agents in the United States searched and seized evidence Monday at the Florida home of former President Donald Trump. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, is investigating possible illegal treatment of secret U.S. information, recognized by the government as classified.
Trump himself was the first to report the FBI action at Mar-a-Lago, as the home is called. It is in the city of Palm Beach. Trump was not home at the time.
The former president said in a statement, "After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate.” He said the search involved “a large group of FBI agents,” adding, "They even broke into my safe!"
What are they looking for?
Trump did not say what the agents were looking for at his Florida home. His son Eric Trump told Fox News that the search concerned documents that Trump had taken from the White House.
The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI did not comment about the reported search. But the Justice Department has been investigating the possible abuse of classified information during and after Trump’s departure from presidential office.
U.S. law requires that all official presidential records, including letters, notes, emails, and all other written communications are saved and sent to the National Archives.
Trump brought several presidential records with him to Florida. After several requests, he surrendered 15 boxes of documents to the Archives in January. Some of the documents were marked “classified.” So, the agency contacted the Justice Department about them.
In the U.S., law enforcement searches require permission from a judge. Though a search warrant does not suggest that criminal charges are near or even expected, investigators must persuade a judge that they have probable cause that a crime happened.
“Never happened before”
Trump noted in his long statement that “Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.”
Experts suggest that the warrant had to have been supported by FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee, and Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was appointed by President Joe Biden.
Phillip Halpern is a former government lawyer who worked on public corruption cases. He told Reuters, "This is as big a deal as you can have, and ... every single person in the chain would have had to sign off on this.”
White House officials said President Joe Biden learned about the search through reporting from news organizations.
Thomas Schwartz is a Vanderbilt University history professor who studies and writes about the presidency. He told the Associated Press that there is no precedent for a former president facing an FBI search -- even going back to Watergate. At that time, Richard Nixon was not permitted to take tapes or other materials from the White House when he resigned as president in 1974, Schwartz noted.
“This is different and it is a sign of how unique the Trump period was,” said Schwartz.
On Monday night, the former president accused Democrats of “weaponization” of the justice system to keep him from running for president in 2024. Several Republican governors and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, used the same term to attack the search at Trump’s home.
The search, however, is not the only legal issue that Trump is facing. The former president is currently facing legal issues concerning his businesses in New York, and investigations into possible election wrongdoing and the January 6 attack on Congress.
I'm Caty Weaver.
Hai Do adpated this story for Learning English based on reporting from Reuters and The Associated Press.
Words in This Story
relevant - adj. relating to a subject
appropriate - adj. right or suited for some purpose or situation
departure - n. the act of leaving a job
precedent - n. similar action or event that happened at an earlier time
unique - adj. very special or unusual