Aug 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

What we know — and don't know — about Trump and the FBI

A view of Mar-a-Lago from the water

Mar-a-Lago. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Hours after the FBI searched former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, his supporters gathered outside in an impromptu rally: Trump flags flew, pickups roared and "We're Not Gonna Take It" blared.

Why it matters: Trump and the American right mobilized to use the raid as a symbol of government overreach and "political persecution," with a speed, fury and ferocity not seen since he left office.

The FBI and Justice Department have said nothing official about what happened. Republicans instantly moved to portray the raid as President Biden trying to hurt a potential 2024 opponent.

  • The conservative National Review said: "[T]he idea that a law enforcement organization under a sitting president would raid the home of his predecessor, opponent in the previous election, and potential opponent in the next election, has no close parallel in American history."

Catch up quick: With Trump in Manhattan, the FBI raided Trump's Palm Beach estate on Monday, apparently as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to Mar-a-Lago.

  • "They even broke into my safe!" Trump said in a statement.

A senior U.S. official tells NBC's Kelly O'Donnell that the FBI was present "for the majority of the day," but said Trump’s use of the word "raid" wasn't appropriate: They were "not breaking down doors here."

  • The official described it as an orderly execution of a search warrant.
  • The FBI notified the Secret Service that a warrant would be executed. The Secret Service "facilitated access to the Florida Trump property as fellow federal agents but did not take part in investigation or search," O'Donnell tweeted.
Outside Mar-a-Lago last night, a Trump supporter shouts as Kamrel Eppinger reports live on WPTV 5, the NBC affiliate in West Palm Beach. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted that the Justice Department, which would have had to approve the raid, "has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization."

  • "When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department," McCarthy added. "Attorney General [Merrick] Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar."

Republicans argue that the quest for purloined documents wasn't a sufficient imperative for such an extraordinary search.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential Trump opponent in the 2024 presidential primary, called the raid "another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime's political opponents, while people like Hunter Biden get treated with kid gloves."

Keep in mind: We know little definitively here. Unknown:

  1. Why this raid and why now?
  2. What does the FBI know to justify it?
  3. Who approved it, and why?
  4. What did agents seek, and what did they actually find?
  5. Will it lead to charges against the former president?

The bottom line: These investigations are top secret. So more likely than not, we won't get the full picture any time soon.

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