WASHINGTON - Many Republicans are rallying around former President Donald Trump after the FBI search on his Mar-a-Lago estate – some more aggressively than others. While House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans vowed to investigate the Department of Justice over the search, Vice President Mike Pence issued a tweet expressing his "concern" over the incident.
"I share the deep concern of millions of Americans over the unprecedented search of the personal residence of President Trump," Pence tweeted.
Pence, who like Trump is considering a 2024 presidential run, also tweeted that some FBI agents "were found to be acting on political motivation" during the Trump administration.
In what looked a carefully worded series of tweets, Pence tweeted that Attorney General Merrick Garland "must give a full accounting to the American people as to why this action was taken and he must do so immediately."
The latest:Ex-Bush AG Gonzales says Mar-a-Lago search likely had approval from ‘highest level’- live updates
The background:What's happening at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home? Was the FBI there? Answers to your questions
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Young Americas Foundation's National Conservative Student Conference on July 26.
What did McConnell, McCarthy say?
Other Republicans, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, had not commented at all as of Tuesday midday.
In pledging to investigate should Republicans win the House, McCarthy issued a starker message to Attorney General Garland: "Preserve your documents and clear your calendar."
Declaring that "I've had enough," McCarthy said the Justice Department has reached "an intolerable state of weaponized politicization."
Democrats, for the most part, said the search was totally justified, given Trump's troubling history of handling classified information, the subject of the Justice Department's inquiry.
"No person is above the law," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on NBC's "Today" show.
The F.B.I.’s search of former President Donald J. Trump’s home in Florida on Monday continued to rock Washington and, more broadly, American politics, amid a swirl of questions about what led the Justice Department to take such a stunning step.
The search came after a visit this spring to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Palm Beach, Fla., by federal agents — including a Justice Department counterintelligence official — to discuss materials that the former president had improperly taken with him when he left the White House.
Mr. Trump was briefly present for that visit, as was at least one of his lawyers, according to people familiar with the situation.
Those materials contained many pages of classified documents, according to a person familiar with their contents. By law, presidential materials must be preserved and sent to the National Archives when a president leaves office. It remained unclear what specific materials agents might have been seeking on Monday or why the Justice Department and the F.B.I. decided to go ahead with the search now.
Mr. Trump had delayed returning 15 boxes of material requested by officials with the National Archives for many months, doing so only in January, when the threat of action to retrieve them grew. The case was referred to the Justice Department by the archives early this year.
F.B.I. agents searched Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald J. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida. Mr. Trump said they had broken open a safe.
F.B.I. agents searched Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald J. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida. Mr. Trump said they had broken open a safe.Credit...MediaPunch, via Associated Press
In carrying out the search, federal agents broke open a safe, the former president said.
The search was the latest remarkable turn in the long-running investigations into Mr. Trump’s actions before, during and after his presidency — and even as he weighs announcing another candidacy for the White House.
It came as the Justice Department has stepped up its separate inquiry into Mr. Trump’s efforts to remain in office after his defeat in the 2020 election and as he also faces an accelerating criminal inquiry in Georgia and civil actions in New York.
Mr. Trump has long cast the F.B.I. as a tool of Democrats who have been out to get him. The search set off a furious reaction among his supporters in the Republican Party and on the far right.
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader in the House, suggested that he intended to investigate Attorney General Merrick B. Garland if Republicans took control of the chamber in November. A delegation of House Republicans was scheduled to travel to Mr. Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J., for a dinner with him on Tuesday night.
Aggressive language was pervasive on the right as Monday night turned into Tuesday morning.
“This. Means. War,” the Gateway Pundit, a pro-Trump outlet, wrote in an online post that was quickly amplified by a Telegram account connected to Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s onetime political adviser.
The F.B.I. would have needed to persuade a judge that it had probable cause that a crime had been committed, and that agents might find evidence at Mar-a-Lago, to get a search warrant. Proceeding with a search on a former president’s home would almost surely have required sign-off from top officials at the bureau and at the Justice Department.
The search, however, does not mean prosecutors have determined that Mr. Trump committed a crime.
Despite the historic and politically incendiary nature of the search, neither the F.B.I. nor the Justice Department has publicly commented or explained the basis for its action, in line with their policies of not discussing active investigations.
Mr. Trump was in the New York area at the time of the search. “Another day in paradise,” he said on Monday night during a telephone rally for Sarah Palin, who is running for a congressional seat in Alaska.
Eric Trump, one of his sons, told Fox News that he was the one who informed his father that the search was taking place, and that the warrant was related to presidential documents.
Mr. Trump campaigned for president in 2016 criticizing Hillary Clinton’s practice of maintaining a private email server for government-related messages while she was the secretary of state. He was known throughout his term to rip up official material that was intended to be held for presidential archives. One person familiar with his habits said that included classified material that was shredded in his bedroom and elsewhere.
The search was at least in part for whether any records remained at Mar-a-Lago, a person familiar with it said. It took place on Monday morning, the person said, although the former president said agents were still there many hours later.
“After working and cooperating with the relevant government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Mr. Trump said, maintaining it was an effort to stop him from running for president in 2024. “Such an assault could only take place in broken, third-world countries.”
“They even broke into my safe!” he wrote.
Mr. Trump did not share any details about what the F.B.I. agents said they were searching for.
The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said on Tuesday that President Biden had not been briefed by the Justice Department before the F.B.I.’s search.
“The president and the White House learned about this F.B.I. search from public reports,” said Ms. Jean-Pierre, who declined to comment on any potential political ramifications.
Aides to Mr. Biden said on Monday they were stunned by the development and had learned of it from Twitter.
The search came as the Justice Department has also been stepping up questioning of former Trump aides who had been witnesses to discussions and planning in the White House of Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss.
Mr. Trump has been the focus of questions asked by federal prosecutors in connection with a scheme to send “fake” electors to Congress for the certification of the Electoral College. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol also continues its work and is interviewing witnesses this week.
The law governing the preservation of White House materials, the Presidential Records Act, lacks teeth, but criminal statutes can come into play, especially in the case of classified material.
Criminal codes, which carry jail time, can be used to prosecute anyone who “willfully injures or commits any depredation against any property of the United States” and anyone who “willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates or destroys” government documents.
Samuel R. Berger, a national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, pleaded guilty in 2015 to a misdemeanor charge for removing classified material from a government archive. In 2007, Donald Keyser, an Asia expert and former senior State Department official, was sentenced to prison after he confessed to keeping more than 3,000 sensitive documents — ranging from the classified to the top secret — in his basement.
In 1999, the C.I.A. announced it had suspended the security clearance of its former director, John M. Deutch, after concluding that he had improperly handled national secrets on a desktop computer at his home.
In January of this year, the archives retrieved 15 boxes that Mr. Trump took with him to Mar-a-Lago from the White House residence when his term ended. The boxes included material subject to the Presidential Records Act, which requires that all documents and records pertaining to official business be turned over to the archives.
The items in the boxes included documents, mementos, gifts and letters. The archives did not describe the classified material it found other than to say that it was “classified national security information.”
Because the National Archives “identified classified information in the boxes,” the agency “has been in communication with the Department of Justice,” David S. Ferriero, the national archivist, told Congress at the time.
Federal prosecutors subsequently began a grand jury investigation, according to two people briefed on the matter. Prosecutors issued a subpoena earlier this year to the archives to obtain the boxes of classified documents, according to the two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
The authorities also made interview requests to people who worked in the White House in the final days of Mr. Trump’s presidency, according to one of the people.
In the spring, a small coterie of federal agents — including at least one involved in counterintelligence — visited Mar-a-Lago in search of some documents, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
The question of how Mr. Trump has handled sensitive material and documents he received as president loomed throughout his time in the White House, and beyond.
He was known to rip up pieces of official paper that he was handed, forcing officials to tape them back together. And an upcoming book by a New York Times reporter reveals that staff members would find clumps of torn-up paper clogging a toilet, and believed he had thrown them in.
The question of how Mr. Trump handled classified material is complicated, because, as president, he had the authority to declassify any government information. It is unclear whether Mr. Trump, before leaving office, had declassified materials the archives discovered in the boxes. Under federal law, he no longer maintains the ability to declassify documents after leaving office.
While in office, he invoked the power to declassify information several times as his administration publicly released materials that helped him politically, particularly on issues like the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.
Toward the end of the administration, Mr. Trump ripped pictures that intrigued him out of the President’s Daily Brief — a compendium of often classified information about potential national security threats — but it is unclear whether he took them to Florida. In one prominent example of how he dealt with classified material, Mr. Trump in 2019 took a highly classified spy satellite image of an Iranian missile launch site, declassified it and then released the photo on Twitter.
Earlier this year, Kash Patel, a former Defense Department senior official and Trump loyalist whom Mr. Trump named as one of his representatives to engage with the National Archives, suggested to the right-wing website Breitbart that Mr. Trump had declassified the documents before leaving the White House and that the proper markings simply had not been adjusted.
Local television crews showed supporters of Mr. Trump gathered near Mar-a-Lago on Monday night, some of them being aggressive toward reporters.
Mr. Trump made clear in his statement that he saw potential political value in the search, something some of his advisers echoed.
His political team began sending fund-raising solicitations about the search late on Monday evening.
Jonathan Martin, Luke Broadwater, Glenn Thrush and Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.
The FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home drew wide reaction in Washington from Trump allies claiming the Justice Department overreached to lawmakers backing up the agencies unprecedented action.
Here's the latest on what we know:
- Why did they search his home?: Two people familiar with the search told USA TODAY the action was connected to Trump's alleged removal of documents from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago property when his term in office was over.
- What investigations involving Trump are there?: In February, the National Archives said it had contacted the Justice Department about Trump's removal of classified material from the White House. An Atlanta-area grand jury is hearing testimony in an investigation of whether Trump tried to meddle in the 2020 election. And the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot concluded its first round of hearings last month
- Politically motivated?: As Republicans lobbed accusations that the FBI's search was an effort by President Joe Biden's administration to target a political opponent, the organization that represents FBI agents defended the agency's work.
- Mike Pence: "I share the deep concern of millions of Americans over the unprecedented search of the personal residence of President Trump."
- Republicans vow to investigate: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and others in his caucus have vowed to investigate the Justice Department should Republicans win control of Congress in November.
- No comment: The Justice Department has not commented on the search.
Congressman Scott Perry, R-Pa., told Fox News the FBI confiscated his cell phone Tuesday.
Perry said he was traveling with family when three FBI agents showed him a warrant and asked him to turn over his phone.
Though the incident comes a day after the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, it’s unclear if the incidents are related. Perry has been linked to Trump’s efforts to overturn election results in Georgia and also asked for a presidential pardon, according to testimony during the Jan. 6 hearings.
Perry in his statement to Fox said the agents did not contact his lawyer, who would have “made arrangement for them to have my phone if that was their wish.”
“I’m outraged — though not surprised — that the FBI under the direction of Merrick Garland’s DOJ would seize the phone of a sitting Member of Congress,” Perry said. “My phone contains info about my legislative and political activities, and personal/private discussions with my wife, family, constituents, and friends. None of this is the government’s business.”
– Candy Woodall
President Joe Biden was not informed of the FBI search on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, the White House said Tuesday.
"No, the president was not briefed, was not aware of it,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at the press briefing. “No one at the White House was given a heads up.”
Jean-Pierre said Biden learned about the search from public reports. “We learned just like the American public did yesterday,” she said.
Some Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for the search, accusing the FBI’s actions of being “politically motivated.”
Jean-Pierre said the Justice Department conducts its investigations independently and declined to comment on the department’s investigation.
– Rebecca Morin
BREAKDOWN OF THE TRUMP INVESTIGATIONS:Trump in midst of gathering storm of investigations. Mar-a-Lago document inquiry is one of many.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and top-elected member of the party in Congress, had not responded to the FBI search as of early Tuesday afternoon.
Calls and emails to his office seeking comment from USA TODAY went unanswered.
His silence stands out as Republican leaders in the House and some senators below him have called for an investigation into the FBI, Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., called for Garland to be impeached and for FBI Director Christopher Wray to be removed.
– Candy Woodall
Ex-Trump administration official criticizes Republican leaders for defending former president over Mar-a-Lago search
One former senior Trump administration official criticized Republican leaders Tuesday, saying their defense of the former president over the Mar-a-Lago search is hurting America’s standing on the global stage.
“Happy to see the FBI doing its job. No one is above the law,” said Lisa Curtis, who served as deputy assistant to the president and senior director for South and Central Asia on the National Security Council from 2017 to 2021.
Curtis told USA TODAY that is “very disappointed with most Republican leaders who won't stand up for democracy in the United States and admit that January 6th has been enormously harmful to our country and its ability to influence global developments.”
“The United States is no longer seen as an example of democracy for other countries to emulate,” said Curtis, who has more than 20 years of service in the U.S. government, including at the NSC, CIA, State Department, and Capitol Hill. “It's painful for me as I have spent the last 30 years of my career trying to promote our democratic ideals and practices overseas in places that desperately need democratic champions.”
– Josh Meyer
Constitutional and criminal law scholar Neal Katyal, the former acting U.S. solicitor general, challenged Trump on Tuesday to disclose the contents of the court-approved search warrant so that the public can decide if the Justice Department has engaged in an abuse of power.
Katyal, the Paul Saunders Professor at Georgetown University, said Trump could easily share the details of the warrant, since he was given a copy of it by the federal agents who executed the search, per U.S. policy.
“Search of Trump abusive? Law enforcement leaves a copy of the search warrant, which itemizes what they are looking for and what laws were violated,” Katyal said in a tweet. “If Trump/RNC think this search signed off on by a fed judge is abusive & they have nothing to hide, release the warrant to the public.”
– Josh Meyer
MIKE PENCE REACTS TO MAR-A-LAGO SEARCH:'Deep concern' over Mar-a-Lago search, asks for 'full accounting' from Garland
More than four-in-10 Americans believe former President Donald Trump should be charged with crimes related to his involvement in the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, according to a new poll published Tuesday.
According to the Monmouth University poll, 41% of Americans say they favor charging Trump. Of that number, 73% identify as Democrats, 43% are Independent and just 3% were Republican.
However, 34% said they oppose charging Trump, with 66% being Republican, 37% independent and 3% Democrat. A quarter of respondents said they are not sure whether Trump should be charged.
A House committee has been investigating the Jan. 6 attack and held a series of eight televised hearings in June and July.
Also from the Monmouth poll, a combined 40% of Americans said they definitely or probably would vote for Trump if he ran for president again in 2024. But nearly half, 48%, of Americans said they definitely would not vote for Trump and 8% said they probably wouldn’t support the former president.
The poll was published a day after the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. It was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from July 28 to Aug. 1, with 808 adults age 18 and older surveyed. There is a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
– Rebecca Morin
Donald Trump is looking to capitalize on the FBI search of his Florida home – through political fundraising.
In an email solicitation, Trump tells potential donors that "these are dark times for our Nation," and the political establishment is "trying to stop the Republican Party and me once more."
"As long as I have your support, I will continue to fight for the Great American People," says the Trump email. "I need every single red-blooded American Patriot to step up during this time."
– David Jackson
Many Republicans are rallying around Donald Trump after the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate – some more aggressively than others.
While House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans vowed to investigate the Department of Justice over the search, Vice President Mike Pence issued a tweet expressing his "concern" over the incident.
"I share the deep concern of millions of Americans over the unprecedented search of the personal residence of President Trump," Pence tweeted.
Pence, who like Trump is considering a 2024 presidential run, also said: "No former President of the United States has ever been subject to a search of their personal residence in American history."
Other Republicans, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, had not commented at all as of Tuesday morning.
– David Jackson
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, on Tuesday urged the Justice Department to explain the nature of its search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home so that it would not become political fodder for Republicans.
“It must be more than a search for inconsequential archives or it will be viewed as a political tactic and undermine any future credible investigation & legitimacy of January 6 investigations,” Cuomo said in a tweet.
In a second tweet, he added that the “bona fide nature” of the search could be used to discredit the House Jan. 6 committee’s investigation of the Capitol attack, which he said would be a “terrible disservice” to their work.
Cuomo resigned as governor after a New York Attorney General's Office report found he sexually harassed 11 women.
– Ella Lee
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the Mar-a-Lago search recalled his 2006 decision to greenlight the FBI’s search of then-Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., Capitol Hill office, in the midst of a federal bribery investigation, the first time federal authorities searched a lawmaker’s congressional office.
“Because of the historic nature of it, I wanted to be sure,” Gonzales said, describing how top officials, including then-FBI Director Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty gathered to consider the action and its potential implications.
The reaction, as expected, unleashed a political firestorm.
Facing the prospect that the White House might order the return of documents seized in the unprecedented search, Gonzales said that he and Mueller were prepared to resign. No such order was issues, but a federal appeals court ultimately ruled that the search to be unconstitutional.
“There is a lot at stake here,” Gonzales said.
- Kevin Johnson
WATERGATE 'IN REVERSE'?:Historians and legal analysts pan Trump's claims and point to legal peril ahead
As Donald Trump and Republicans blast the FBI for its search of his Mar-a-Lago home, Democrats defended the search as an appropriate law enforcement action.
“Presidents have a solemn duty to protect America’s national security, and allegations that former President Trump put our security at risk by mishandling classified information warrant the utmost scrutiny," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Maloney, whose committee is also investigating Trump's handling of classified information, said "it is clear that the Department of Justice must fully investigate President Trump’s potentially grave mishandling of classified information."
- David Jackson
Alberto Gonzales, a former attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, believed that a law enforcement action of such magnitude would almost certainly have involved the sign-off of Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“Unless there was a serious breakdown, I have to think that this was approved at the highest level,” Gonzales said.
In order to proceed with the action, Gonzales said Justice Department officials would have to be “convinced that there was no other way” to obtain the information.
“It raises a number of questions that have to be considered: Why do you need to take the action? Why now? What has been done to obtain the information short of a search? Was there some kind of concern that documents would have been destroyed?”
- Kevin Johnson
Donald Trump will huddle with a group of House Republicans on Tuesday, a day after the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part of an investigation into the handling of classified material.
Trump will dine with a dozen members of the House Republican Study Committee at his summer home in Bedminster, N.J., said an official familiar with the plan.
The dinner has been planned for weeks, but Trump is expected to discuss the various investigations of him, the official said.
The Republican Study Committee describes itself as "the conservative caucus of House Republicans," and says it has been "a leading influencer on the Right since its original founding in 1973." Under the chairmanship of Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., the RSC has been a major supporter of Trump.
While planning the meeting with Trump last month, Banks told Breitbart News that his committee "has visited with him many times before. We have a very close relationship with him, and the Republican Study Committee believes he’s the most effective president in a lifetime or more."
- David Jackson
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told NBC's "Today" on Tuesday that "no one is above the law," regarding FBI's search of former President Donald Trump's home.
"We believe in the rule of law. That's what our country is about," Pelosi said. "And no person is above the law. Not even the president of the United States. Not even a former president of the United States."
On House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's comments about the Mar-a-Lago search and "immediate oversight" of the Justice Department if Republicans win the House, Pelosi said, "whatever the leader is saying is probably idle."
– Merdie Nzanga
The organization that represents FBI agents on Tuesday defended the agency's work as former President Donald Trump and his allies derided the search of his Mar-a-Lago home as politically motivated.
“FBI Special Agents perform their investigative duties with integrity and professionalism, and remain focused on complying with the law and the Constitution,” said Brian O’Hare, president of the FBI Agents Association, in a prepared statement.
O'Hare pointed out that all search warrants are issued by federal district court or magistrate judges and have to comply with detailed procedural rules. Agents also work with Justice Department attorneys on its search warrants, he said.
Under the law, any search would need to be authorized by a federal judge after finding probable cause that a crime had been committed and that evidence of the crime exists in the location to be searched.
Agents executed a search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday in what two people familiar with the search told USA TODAY was an action related to Trump's alleged removal of documents from the White House when his term ended in 2021.
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN MAR-A-LAGO?:Was the FBI at Trump's home? Answers to your questions
Trump called the search a "weaponization of the Justice System" meant to hurt him politically, a refrain echoed by his Republican allies in the hours after the search became public.
"It is prosecutorial misconduct, the weaponization of the Justice System, and an attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for President in 2024, especially based on recent polls, and who will likewise do anything to stop Republicans and Conservatives in the upcoming Midterm Elections," Trump said in a prepared statement.
- Rick Rouan
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday said the Justice Department had "reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization," and promised new investigations into the department if Republicans retake control of the House in the midterm election.
"Attorney General (Merrick) Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar," McCarthy tweeted.
In an appearance on Fox News, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., should call Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray before the committee as soon as Friday to answer questions about the search.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said President Joe Biden's administration was using the department to target its political enemies. But the New York Times reported Monday that White House officials did not have advance notice of the search.
Republican governors also rushed to Trump's defense on Monday, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely seen as Trump's biggest competition for the 2024 presidential nomination.
"They’ve been after President Trump as a candidate, as President, and now as a former President," South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem tweeted. "Using the criminal justice system in this manner is un-American."
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