It is a process that is unique in US history: the American federal police FBI searched the property of ex-US President Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago in Florida for several hours on Monday morning.
In a post on his social media network Social Truth, Trump – who was not there himself – described the raid as “political persecution” and an attack on him by the “radical left Democrats”. The FBI also allegedly broke into his safe, he wrote. Trump did not explain exactly what the FBI was looking for.
Eric Trump, one of Trump’s sons, told Fox News that he informed his father about the search. The search warrant refers to documents from Trump’s time as president, he said.
A “person familiar with the matter” told the New York Times that the raid was “used, at least in part, to determine whether any records remained at the property.” The political website “Politico” quoted anonymous sources on Monday, according to which the investigators are said to have confiscated papers.
Earlier this year, Trump was accused of destroying important documents from his tenure or taking them to his Florida home.
It is unclear what the documents allegedly confiscated by the FBI could contain and whether they are related to the investigation into Trump’s storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, as is currently suspected.
There are high hurdles for house searches of presidents and those who used to be presidents: the highest level of the Ministry of the Interior probably had to issue a special permit for this.
Several investigations are currently underway against Trump: the Justice Department recently intensified investigations into Trump’s attempts to remain in office after his election defeat. Investigations are also underway against Trump in the Georgia case: he is said to have pressured the state secretary in the state where the election result was particularly close to “find 11,780 votes”.
Fifteen boxes containing government documents, memorabilia, gifts and letters from the White House are said to have brought Trump to his estate after the end of his term in office. According to media reports, letters from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and former US President and Trump trailer Barack Obama are said to have been among them.
There are exceptions, but actually every correspondence, every document of a president has to be archived in the USA. That’s what the 1978 Presidential Records Act stipulates. Accordingly, a letter that Trump received from Kim Jong Un is not his private property, but public property.
Once a president completes his term of office, his documents must be placed in the care of an archivist. Because according to the American Freedom of Information Act, five years after the end of the presidential term of office, the documents can be publicly inspected. Trump tried to excuse himself by claiming he had not been told he was required to turn over the materials.
After several months, Trump finally handed over the fifteen boxes of documents under pressure from the National Archives, as he and the archives confirmed. But the papers are said not to have been complete. Therefore, earlier this year, the archive turned the case over to the Justice Department. The federal prosecutor’s office then launched an investigation.
The FBI raid now suggests that Donald Trump is indeed withholding additional documents from his time as President.
But Trump is said to have not only taken documents home, but also tried to destroy them. In February 2022, the National Archives wrote of Trump’s documents: “Some of President Trump’s records […] contained paper records that had been torn up by former President Trump.”
He continued: “As has been reported in the press since 2018, during the Trump administration, White House officials responsible for managing the records recovered and taped some of the torn records.”
The New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman reported in February that Trump flushed documents down the toilet during his presidency. “The tech had to come and fix the toilet and what the tech found were clumped, wet, printed balls of paper – so it wasn’t toilet paper,” she told CNN. It is unclear what type of documents were found.
Trump rejected this and called Haberman’s claim fabricated. The New York Times now quotes a “person familiar with his habits” that classified information is said to have been shredded in Trump’s bedroom in the past.
On Monday, the online medium “Axios” also published photos of two toilets with notes that are supposed to show Donald Trump’s handwriting. Haberman made the photos available to “Axios”. According to Haberman, Trump is said to have flushed documents down the toilet in the White House “several times” and “at least once” this happened while traveling.
It is no longer possible to identify exactly what is written on the slips of paper. On one of them, however, the names “Rogers” and “Stefanik” can be read relatively clearly. There are currently two members of Congress named Rogers:
Hal Rogers, Republican and Representative of the State of Kentucky in the House of Representatives; and Mike Rogers, also Republican. He served as Trump’s national security director during the 2016 government formation.
The second name could mean Elisa Stefanik. She is also a Republican, a representative of the state of New York in the US House of Representatives and is considered a Trump supporter.
It is unclear whether the papers on the toilet photos are records relevant to the Presidential Records Act.
“Trump’s frequent disposition of documents in this manner was not widely known within the West Wing, but some staffers were aware of the habit,” Haberman told Axios.