PALM BEACH, Aug 9 — Former US President Donald Trump today tried to turn the news of an FBI search of his Florida estate to his benefit, citing the investigation in text messages and emails soliciting political donations from his supporters.
The unprecedented search of the home of a former president marked a significant escalation of the federal investigation into whether Trump illegally removed records from the White House as he was leaving office in January 2021. Trump continues to publicly flirt with running again for president in 2024 but has not said clearly whether he will do so.
Trump tried to paint the search of his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach as a politically motivated move by President Joe Biden's administration even as the former president plays a key role in Republican primaries ahead of the November midterm elections that will determine control of the US Congress.
"As they watch my endorsed candidates win big victories and see my dominance in all polls, they are trying to stop the Republican Party and me once more," Trump said in a fundraising email today. "The lawlessness, political persecution, and Witch Hunt, must be exposed and stopped."
Trump launched his Save America political action committee days after losing the 2020 election to Biden. It has more than US$100 million (RM445.90) in the bank, a formidable war chest.
Trump yesterday announced the search of his club in a statement, saying that a "large group of FBI agents" had carried it out. The FBI's headquarters in Washington and its field office in Miami both declined comment.
Eric Trump, one of Trump's adult children, told Fox News yesterday the search concerned boxes of documents that his father brought from the White House. A source familiar with the matter confirmed to Reuters the raid appeared to be tied to Trump's removal of classified records from the White House.
The probe is one of several investigations that have focused on Trump since he left office, weeks after his supporters stormed the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an unsuccessful bid to overturn his election loss. Trump continues to falsely claim that the election was stolen through widespread voting fraud.
Trump remains the Republican Party's most influential voice, though recent polls have shown a growing number of Republican voters supporting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as a potential 2024 candidate.
A federal law called the US Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president's official duties.
Any search of a private residence would have to be approved by a judge, after the investigating law-enforcement agency demonstrated probable cause that a search was justified.
It almost certainly would also be approved by FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee, and his boss, Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was appointed by Biden. A White House official said Biden was not given advance notice of the search and referred queries to the Justice Department.
Trump was not present at the time of the search as he was in New York yesterday, Fox News Digital reported, publishing a photo of Trump that a Fox reporter said showed him leaving Trump Tower. Trump, who has lived at his Palm Beach club since leaving office, has generally spent summers at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, because Mar-a-Lago typically closes for the summer. — Reuters