After Surprise Trump Search, Many Questions, Few Answers

It's called 'one of the most significant, sensitive, and politically explosive actions' by FBI and DOJ
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2022 10:00 AM CDT
What We Know About Surprise Search on Trump Estate
Secret Service agents stand near one of the entrances to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday. Former President Trump said in a lengthy statement that the FBI was conducting a search of his Mar-a-Lago estate and asserted that agents had broken open a safe.   (Andres Leiva/The Palm Beach Post via AP)

(Newser) – The word "bombshell" is being thrown around a lot in coverage to describe the FBI search on former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Monday. Son Eric Trump confirmed to Sean Hannity on Fox Monday night that agents were looking for confidential documents his father might still have in his possession, reports the New York Post. But the younger Trump sees a larger motive: "They do it for one reason, because they don't want Donald Trump to run and win again in 2024 and, Sean, that's what this is about today," he said of Democrats. Related coverage:

  • Unprecedented: The "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," writes Philip Klein at the National Review. He adds that if the search yields nothing, it will further destabilize an already unstable political environment, "and should be alarming to anybody, no matter their personal feelings about Trump or his statements and actions."
  • The goods? "Taken together, this is one of the most significant, sensitive, and politically explosive actions the US Justice Department and FBI has ever taken—one of a tiny handful of times it's ever investigated a president," tweeted journalist Garrett M. Graff. "Bottom line: The FBI & DOJ must've known they had the goods." Agents were at the residence "for the majority of the day," but it's not clear what they found, per NBC's Doug Adams.

  • Complication: Trump was the president after all, and few in government have more discretion to decide what is and isn't classified than a sitting president, notes the Washington Post. The story notes that it's unclear why the search occurred quite a few months after the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago. Politico notes that Trump's handling of classified information has long been the subject of scrutiny, though the Jan. 6 hearings have overshadowed the issue.
  • Questions: Mike Allen at Axios runs them down, including: Why now? Who approved the search? What were they looking for, and what did they find? Will this lead to charges? Neither the Justice Department nor the FBI is talking, meaning the "full picture" won't emerge for a while, notes Allen. Such a search would need approval of top DOJ officials, though it remained unclear on Tuesday whether Attorney General Merrick Garland personally signed off on it, per the AP.
  • From the right: The search is a joke and one that might backfire on Democrats, writes Nick Arama at RedState. It's "only going to charge up Republicans, even more, to circle the wagons and realize there is no choice, everyone has to get out and throw the Democrats out of office in November if we are ever to stop this kind of corruption," he writes. "We are not a banana republic but they are doing all they can to make us into one in their naked effort to hold onto power."
  • Key question: If Trump is indeed found to have illegally removed classified documents, would he be barred from running in 2024? The relevant statute stipulates that people so convicted are "disqualified from holding any office under the United States," writes Charlie Savage in the New York Times. "On its face, then," the answer would seem to be yes. But the rest of his analysis digs into the legal gray area involved, shifting the answer to what seems to be something closer to maybe.
House Republicans are seething and want to investigate the FBI. (Read more Donald Trump stories.)

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