On August 8th, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a search of former President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach estate after receiving a warrant to do so. According to a source familiar with the operation, the Mar-a-Lago raid was the culmination of an ongoing investigation into Trump’s handling and possession of White House documents after his term concluded, possibly including classified records. Once the search began, law enforcement reportedly spent hours uncovering and seizing papers within the Florida home, even entering Trump’s safe. Such a raid on the residence of a former president is highly unprecedented and a historic undertaking for the FBI and Justice Department.
Suspicion surrounding Trump’s handling of presidential records is not a new development, yet it has been quite overlooked throughout 2022 due to the media’s focus on the January 6th hearings. During his presidency, Trump allegedly tore up official documents that other officials would later restore. It was even speculated that the President placed ripped pieces of paper in the White House toilets. After the Trump administration left the White House, the National Archives and Records Administration announced its pursuit of fifteen boxes of records that were “improperly removed” to Mar-a-Lago. At the time of this announcement in February, the administration stated that it was actively collaborating with the Trump team to recover the stolen records.
Although he was not in Florida during the search, the FBI presence at Mar-a-Lago outraged Trump. The former president compared the event to Watergate, describing his residence as being “under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents.” He also explained his belief that the action “was not necessary or appropriate” given his claimed cooperation with the government. Despite these claims, Trump actually delayed the return of the National Archives’ fifteen boxes for months, until it was made clear that failure to turn them over would result in further consequences.
Supporters of Donald Trump also expressed their disdain for the FBI raid. On Monday evening, a small group of civilians approached Mar-a-Lago donning Trump-Pence merchandise in an effort to demonstrate their support for the former president and anger toward the federal government. Some politicians are even outraged within the government itself, with many Republicans and far-right individuals condemning the search. Trump allies have launched their own accusations at the government to counter those placed on the former president, advocating for the dissolution of federal law enforcement agencies after the search. Kevin McCarthy, the House’s Republican leader, even proposed an investigation into the Attorney General if his party gains control of the House during November’s midterm elections.
Reports have indicated that the White House was unaware of the impending FBI search at Mar-a-Lago. Many officials claimed that they discovered the news via the Internet as most Americans did. The government was largely silent regarding the matter, with the FBI, Justice Department, and Attorney’s Office declining to provide statements following the search. Local authorities and law enforcement in Florida chose to defer any comment to the FBI.
Donald Trump, who is already struggling against the January 6th hearings, may encounter further criminal accusations in the imminent future due to his role in the removal of presidential records. The former president could face the prospect of jail time, as anybody who “willfully injures or commits any depredation against any property of the United States” or “willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates or destroys” government documents can be prosecuted.
Haberman, Maggie, et al. “F.B.I. Searches Trump's Mar-a-Lago Residence in Florida.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Aug. 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/08/08/us/trump-fbi-raid.
Lemire, Jonathan, et al. “Trump's Mar-a-Lago Home Searched by FBI in Unprecedented Move.” POLITICO, 8 Aug. 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/08/trump-fbi-maralago-search-00050442.
About the Author:
Karenna Marnik is a junior student. Over the past year, Karenna has developed an interest in journalism, as she writes monthly for her school newspaper in addition to The Alcott. She is also passionate about sailing, debate club, and participating in student leadership. Karenna enjoys a lifestyle filled with exercise and the outdoors, particularly hiking and skiing.