FBI agents raided former US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate amid claims 45 had taken classified records from the White House.
The action, which the FBI and Justice Department did not immediately confirm, marks a dramatic escalation in law enforcement scrutiny of the former president and comes as he has been laying the groundwork to make another bid for the White House.
Though a search warrant does not suggest that criminal charges are near or even expected, federal officials looking to obtain one must demonstrate that they have probable cause that a crime occurred.
“After working and co-operating with the relevant government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Mr Trump said in his statement, claiming agents broke into a safe during the search.
DARK TIMES IN AMERICA
He added: “These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.”
Justice Department spokesperson Dena Iverson declined to comment on the search, including about whether Attorney General Merrick Garland had personally authorised it.
A person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the search happened earlier on Monday and agents were also looking to see if Mr Trump had additional presidential records or any classified documents at the estate.
The probe is hardly the only legal headache confronting Mr Trump. A separate investigation related to efforts by Mr Trump and his allies to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election and the January 6 2021 riot at the US Capitol has also been intensifying in Washington.
And a district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, is investigating whether Mr Trump and his close associates sought to interfere in that state’s election, which was won by Democrat Joe Biden.
Additional reporting by PA Media