On Monday, news broke that the FBI had executed a search warrant at former President Donald Trump’s club in Palm Beach. Documents have not yet been released, but the warrant is said to be related to an ongoing Department of Justice investigation involving improperly removed presidential records.
The records Trump has stored at Mar-a-Lago allegedly include sensitive documents from the White House, in violation of multiple laws regulating presidential and confidential records.
To execute a search warrant, a federal magistrate judge would have had to determine there was probable cause supporting investigators’ suspicion of criminal activity. Here’s a short timeline of what we know so far:
Throughout the investigation of the Jan 6. riots, the former president sought executive privilege to protect presidential records related to the attack from public consumption and from review by the Oversight committee. The Biden administration denied this privilege.
In December, 2021, a D.C. circuit court denied Trump’s appeal calling for an injunction overriding the Committee’s request and President Biden’s decision on privilege, arguing that Trump “failed to establish irreparable harm, and the balance of interests and equities weigh decisively in favor of disclosure.”
On Jan. 20, 2022, the Supreme Court in Trump v. Thompson denied Trump’s application and upheld the lower court’s determination.
Then, a February 2022 letter from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) was sent in a response to months-long ongoing correspondence regarding subpoenaed documents related to the Jan. 6, 2020 attack on the capitol between NARA, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and presidents Biden and Trump.
David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, confirmed to Oversight and Reform chair Carolyn Maloney that NARA had identified confidential “national security information” in presidential materials that Trump removed improperly from the White House and later returned to NARA and that the administration was actively communicating with the Department of Justice.
A report from the Washington Post in late Feb claimed that some of the records originally recovered from Mar-a-Lago during negotiations between Trump and NARA were so sensitive “they may not be described in public.”
In May, federal prosecutors launched a grand jury investigation into the case.
The August search followed a June visit from federal investigators, including Jay Bratt, the DOJ’s chief of counterintelligence and expert control, to discuss and see where classified material was still being stored in Mar-a-Lago, CNN reports.
Eric Trump confirmed during an interview with Fox News in the hours following the search that the warrant was related to the presidential records taken from the White House.
FBI agents arrived in plain clothes at the club around 9:00am and left around 6:30pm on Aug 8, News Nation’s Brian Entin reports.
News of the search came on the 48th anniversary of former President Richard Nixon’s resignation announcement, following the Nixon administration’s involvement in—and attempted coverup of— criminal activity surrounding the Watergate wiretapping scandal.
Notably, one of the laws at the center of the DOJ investigation of former President Trump’s handling of administration documents, the Presidential Records Act of 1978, was enacted (following the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974 that seized and archived Nixon’s records and recordings to prevent the former president from destroying them) after Nixon’s resignation to protect government and public ownership of presidential records.