The US Justice Department is under pressure to give a fuller account of the FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s Florida estate after the unprecedented raid on the home of a former US president sparked howls of outrage from Republicans.
As of Tuesday night, the Justice Department and FBI had not yet commented on the Mar-a-Lago search, which was conducted a day earlier by what Trump described as a “large group” of agents federal FBI searches must be approved by a federal judge.
More details about the focus of the raid emerged later in the day. People close to Trump confirmed it was related to an investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents and presidential records found at Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House, and that the FBI left with material new recovered during research.
The investigation into Trump’s possession of boxes of sensitive documents had already sparked talks between federal officials and Trump’s lawyers in recent months. His aides insisted he had been complacent all along.
“President Trump himself, as well as his legal team, have been more than accommodating and allowed access to everything they’ve wanted in the past,” said Christina Bobb, a Trump lawyer who was present during the raid. , on OAN, a conservative news network. on Tuesday.
“It’s just a weird flexing of power . . . and I don’t think the American people like it. I don’t think it was necessary. And it’s just Gestapo-style, you know, oppressing your political opponent.” added.
The move has drawn backlash from Republicans, who have cast it as a politically motivated attack on someone who has repeatedly raised the possibility of trying to retake the White House in 2024.
Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice president, said he shared “the deep concern of millions of Americans” about the search, and Attorney General Merrick Garland “must give a full explanation to the American people as to why took this action and he must do so immediately.”
Mike Turner, the top Republican on the House intelligence committee, released a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray calling for an “immediate conference” on the search.
“In the history of our country, this action is unprecedented. . . Congress deserves immediate answers from you about the actions you ordered,” Turner wrote.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham described it as “a dangerous moment for the American constitution.”
“The pressure on the DoJ by liberals to get Trump has been relentless. . . . Remember, they’ve been trying to get Trump since he went down the escalator,” Graham added, referring to the campaign ad of Trump in 2016. DoJ and FBI officials rarely comment on ongoing investigations before any charges are made.
Asked Tuesday about the raid, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration had received no advance notice of the FBI search and had only learned of it through reports. public
“We learned just as the American public did yesterday, and we had no prior notice of this activity,” he said. “President [Joe] Biden has been very clear since before he was elected president and during his time in office that the Justice Department conducts its investigations independently.”
In the wake of the attack, Republican candidates sent fundraising emails to supporters citing the FBI search, in a sign they hope they can use the raid to rally the party’s base ahead of the midterm elections where Democrats are predicted to lose their majority like a razor. at home.
Mehmet Oz, the Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania who was endorsed by the former president, wrote on Twitter: “America is bitterly divided, and what President Biden’s FBI and DoJ did last night only it will make things worse.”
Trump’s enduring grip on the GOP’s conservative base was on display again Tuesday night when Tim Michels, the candidate he supported in the Republican primary for governor of Wisconsin, prevailed over the favorite of pro-business establishment Rebecca Kleefisch in a tight race.
Criticism of the attack was not limited to the Republican party, with Democrats also calling for more clarity from the DoJ. Others warned that if the search was conducted in connection with an investigation into the preservation of presidential records, rather than a more serious matter, it could jeopardize future investigations and boost Trump politically.
Andrew Cuomo, the former New York governor who was forced to resign after a wave of sexual harassment allegations, called on the Justice Department to “immediately explain the reason for its raid.”
He added that if the attack was only about “a search for unimportant files”, it would be seen “as a political tactic and undermines any future credible investigation”.
Andrew Yang, a former Democratic presidential candidate, said on Twitter: “The mishandling of the documents does not look like raid material. However, it looks like excellent campaign material for Trump.”
In a separate blow to Trump, the D.C. appeals court ruled Tuesday that Congress had the right to subpoena the former president’s tax returns, something he had long fought over time on the left
The Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee said it expected to receive access to the statements immediately and would begin monitoring the Internal Revenue Service’s mandatory presidential audit program.
The Mar-a-Lago foray threatens to overshadow what has been shaping up to be one of the most positive stretches of Biden’s presidency. News of the search broke as he celebrated a string of legislative victories, capped by the passage of a flagship tax-and-spend bill in the Senate over the weekend.
Democrats are hoping to galvanize their voter base after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the 1973 Roe vs. Wade precedent establishing a federal constitutional right to abortion.
Democratic leaders were reluctant to discuss the FBI search on Tuesday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she expected authorities to be “justified,” but said she had no further knowledge of the attack. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader of the Senate, declined to comment on the search.