Sources within the Department of Justice (DOJ) have indicated that a search warrant was executed on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday because an informant alerted the agency about White House documents being kept on the property, some of which are classified.
Newsweek reported the details of how the search came about on Wednesday, citing two government sources with knowledge of the raid.
The informant told government agents details about where Trump was hiding documents on the premises, the sources told the publication. Information about the informant has not been released.
The government officials who spoke to Newsweek revealed that the raid had been planned to take place while Trump was in New York City to avoid creating a spectacle. Agents didn’t want Trump blasting the search — which included around two dozen FBI agents and technicians — in real time, on social media or through official statements. Investigators were also worried about the possibility that Trump would try to forcibly stop the investigation.
Preparations for the raid began several weeks ago, according to the publication.
On Monday, around a dozen boxes were removed by the FBI from Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida. According to Newsweek’s sources, the items that were taken included classified documents and national security-related material that Trump wasn’t supposed to take from the White House.
Earlier this year, when the National Archives removed 15 separate boxes of items that had originated from Trump’s time in the White House from Mar-a-Lago, Trump maintained that the boxes didn’t include anything sensitive or classified, and that they were taken in the frenzy to exit the White House on his final day there. The National Archives disagreed with those assertions, and asked the DOJ to investigate in April.
It’s possible that Trump’s removal of those items is in violation of the Presidential Records Act, a federal law that requires all materials written on or handled by the president to be archived. According to one of the DOJ sources that spoke to Newsweek, a federal grand jury that the department convened later that month concluded that a law violation of some kind had occurred. Others have speculated that Trump may have committed additional violations as a result of his mishandling of documents.
During the search, Trump released a statement decrying the investigation as political; in it, he described the search as an indication of “dark times for our Nation,” calling it a “weaponization of the Justice System, and an attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for President in 2024.” Several legal experts, including former federal prosecutor (and current president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) Noah Bookbinder, disagreed with Trump’s comments.
“The FBI could only execute a search warrant if a federal judge found probable cause that a crime was committed and that evidence of that crime would likely be found at the place to be searched…Given that this was the property of a former president, a judge unquestionably took that responsibility very seriously,” Bookbinder said in a tweet. “No one was casual about this.”