(CNN) — We are back in uncharted territory.
The FBI has never raided the residence of a former US president, let alone one who is preparing to run for office again.
Federal agents, armed with a search warrant approved by a federal judge, searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on Monday, seizing boxes of unspecified items.
Trump referred to the action as a “raid” and said Mar-a-Lago was “under siege,” noting that “they even broke into my safe.”
What was the FBI looking for?
The search is part of an investigation into the presidential handling of documents, some classified, that could have been taken to the residence, three people familiar with the situation told CNN.
The break-in, Trump’s son Eric said in an appearance Monday night on Fox, is related to the National Archives.
“The National Archives wanted to, you know, corroborate whether Donald Trump had documents in his possession or not,” he said.
What is needed to obtain a search warrant?
According to CNN’s Tierney Sneed: “Investigators would have had to present to a judge that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and that there is evidence of that crime at Mar-a-Lago.”
Therefore, they must have believed that Trump did not turn over all the documents sooner, experts told Sneed.
Who approved the raid?
The FBI is led by Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee. The Justice Department is headed by Merrick Garland, a Joe Biden appointee who has frustrated many Democrats with his delay in investigating Trump. Investigators convinced a federal judge that they needed a warrant to search the former president’s home.
“The fact that a federal judge approved it shows that they have something there, we just don’t know what it is,” George Conway, a conservative anti-Trump lawyer, said in an appearance on CNN’s “New Day.”
How many current investigations involve Trump?
Key line from the CNN report:
The Justice Department has two known active investigations related to the former president, one into the effort to nullify the 2020 and January 6, 2021 presidential elections, and the other into the handling of classified documents.
It is because of January 6, rather than the documents, that many Americans would most like to see Trump impeached, especially after seeing hearings this summer by the House committee investigating the insurrection. .
What is this about flushing documents down the toilet?
Trump’s disregard for record preservation is well known. It is said that he hides things from employees and that he routinely tears papers into little pieces.
Maggie Haberman, the New York Times reporter and CNN contributor who has an upcoming book on Trump, obtained photos of torn documents, apparently in Trump’s handwriting in thick black ink, flushed down White House toilets and during foreign trips. You can read more here.
Yup, we’ve come to the photos of documents in toilets part of the Trump saga. No, the documents in the toilet don’t appear to have anything to do with the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago.
Why does Trump seem to love this attention?
Despite his potential legal exposure, Trump clearly sees a political advantage in all of this. He is inciting his followers, asking them for money and claiming that the government is after him.
Trump’s critics hope that what finally becomes known about the FBI investigation will be enough to push back conspiracy theories already brewing.
“This I hope goes beyond just not complying with some filing laws, or the DOJ just handed Donald Trump the Republican nomination and potentially the presidency,” said Alyssa Farah Griffin, the former White House communications director for Trump who became a critic of his former boss.
“If it’s seen as some kind of massive overreach and not something incredibly serious, this is a very good day for Donald Trump,” he said Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day.”
Griffin argued that he knows how to manipulate this situation to his political advantage, noting that he essentially broke the news with a post on his Truth Social account.
How are Republicans reacting to the raid?
To find out how Republicans view the search, check out their responses.
While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is not a close friend of Trump’s, declined to comment, others have picked up on the former president’s claim that it is a form of persecution.
Multiple GOP senators said Garland should step down as attorney general. Others said they could move to impeach him if they win control of the Senate after the November midterm elections.
“Garland must resign or be impeached. The search warrant must be published. Christoper (sic) Wray must be removed. And the FBI reformed from top to bottom,” wrote on Twitter Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said the raid seemed like something from a less free country.
“The FBI raid is unprecedented for the United States, but familiar to those in Florida who fled nations where political opposition was criminalized,” said on Twitter.
When did this confrontation begin to take shape?
CNN’s Holmes Lybrand and Marshall Cohen have been following developments ever since we learned of Trump’s run-in with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which ultimately asked the Justice Department to investigate the incident. Trump’s possible mishandling of the classified documents he removed from the White House and brought to Mar-a-Lago.
This is the general schedule they put together:
- May 2021: NARA contacts Trump’s team about important documents that were not released before he left office.
- Fall 2021: NARA is frustrated by the slow delivery of documents and contacts another Trump attorney.
- January 2022: NARA retrieves 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago, in a pre-arranged deal with the Trump team.
- January 31, 2022: NARA says some of the documents recovered from the White House “They had been ripped to shreds by former President Trump.”
- February 9, 2022: media reports NARA asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of White House files.
- February 18, 2022: NARA says classified records were found among the documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago.
- April and May 2022: The FBI interviews Trump aides at Mar-a-Lago as part of the document mishandling investigation.
- May 12, 2022: media reports that federal investigators subpoenaed NARA to access classified documents taken to Mar-a-Lago.
- June 3, 2022: FBI investigators visit Mar-a-Lago, see Trump briefly, meet with Trump’s lawyers, and see where the documents are kept.
- June 8, 2022: the FBI informs Trump’s lawyers that they must further secure the room where the documents are kept; later they add a padlock.
- August 8, 2022: FBI executes search warrant at Mar-a-Lago as part of document investigation; agents remove boxes from the property.
Wasn’t it Trump supporters who chanted “lock her up” about Hillary Clinton and classified information?
As a candidate in 2016, Trump made Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified data during her time as US Secretary of State one of his main campaign issues.
Suggesting that she had broken the law with what the FBI determined was careless handling of classified data on a private email server system, Trump supporters led chants of “lock her up” at her rallies.
Now, it is Trump who is the subject of an FBI investigation into his handling of classified data.
What could Trump legally face?
We don’t know at all. He has not been charged with any crime. CNN’s Katelyn Polantz and Laura Jarrett have previously discussed whether Trump could be charged with a crime if he mishandled federal documents.
To be charged with illegally withholding or destroying documents, prosecutors would have to prove that he “willfully” broke the law, which could be a very complex thing to prove.
Regarding the classified documents, Trump could theoretically argue that as president he declassified whatever document was in his possession, though that could be tricky if there is no paper trail of the declassification.
At least one Democrat sees this as something extremely serious for the former president.
“If Donald Trump was my client, and thank the Lord he isn’t, I would tell him to call his family and say, ‘We should make arrangements, he could go to jail,'” said on CNN Neal Katyalformer acting attorney general in the Obama administration.
Don’t lose sight of these stories
- Nothing to say: the virtual appearance of Doug Mastriano, a Trump ally and candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, on Tuesday before the January 6 House of Representatives committee, ended without a single question being answered, a source told CNN.
- Another witness: former secretary of state Mike Pompeo he was also scheduled to meet with the commission.
- Tax time: a federal appeals court says the House Ways and Means Committee can obtain Trump’s tax returns from the IRS.
- Giuliani’s long drive to appear: After undergoing stent surgery on his heart, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is unable to fly to appear next week before a Georgia grand jury investigating the aftermath of the 2020 election. A judge says he must explore the road trip options.