Ghosts of 2016
More than a dozen FBI agents executed a search warrant on former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club and residence Monday as part of the Justice Department's investigation into whether Trump broke any laws when he improperly took at least 15 boxes of material to Florida when he left office, people familiar with the raid told multiple news organizations. Eric Trump told Fox News on Monday evening that "the National Archives wanted to corroborate whether or not Donald Trump had any documents in his possession."
Some of the material recovered from Mar-a-Lago in February contained highly classified national security information, the National Archives said at the time. "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," The New York Times reports. "Officials can face up to five years in prison for removing classified materials to an unauthorized location," The Wall Street Journal adds.
Technically, a conviction on charges of removing, concealing, or destroying government records would also disqualify Trump from holding federal office again, the Times reports, though legal experts said enforcing that clause would require litigation.
Mar-a-Lago was closed and Trump was in New York City during the raid. He has spent much of the the summer at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey, "preparing for a deposition with the New York attorney general in a civil matter related to his finances," the Times reports. Trump lawyer Christina Bobb, who was present during the search, said FBI agents "seized paper."
"Searching a former president's property to look for possible evidence of a crime is highly unusual and would require approval at the top levels of the Justice Department," as well as sign-off from a federal magistrate, The Washington Post says. White House officials said President Biden and his aides learned of the raid from news reports.
"There has been nothing like this in recent decades," John Q. Barrett, a law professor at St. John's University in New York, tells the Journal. "No person is above the law, and we have many Supreme Court decisions about occupants of high office not being above the law, but when someone is out of office, he's just a person like everyone else, living in his home and subject to obeying the law."