Trump has previously maintained that presidential records were turned over “in an ordinary and routine process.” His son Eric said on Fox News on Monday night that he had spent the day with his father and that the search happened because “the National Archives wanted to corroborate whether or not Donald Trump had any documents in his possession.”
Asked how the documents ended up at Mar-a-Lago, Eric Trump said the boxes were among items that got moved out of the White House during “six hours” on Inauguration Day, as the Bidens prepared to move into the building.
“My father always kept press clippings,” Eric Trump said. “He had boxes, when he moved out of the White House.”
Trump emerged from Trump Tower in New York City shortly before 8pm and waved to bystanders before being driven away in an SUV.
In his first public remarks since news of the search surfaced, Trump made no mention of it during a tele-town hall on behalf of Leora Levy, the Connecticut Republican he has endorsed in Tuesday’s US Senate primary.
But in a social media post Monday night, he called it a “weaponisation of the Justice System, and an attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for President in 2024.”
Other Republicans echoed that message.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate, said on Twitter that it was “an escalation in the weaponisation” of US government agencies. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, said in a tweet that if Republicans win control of the US House, they will investigate the Justice Department.
Trump took a different stance during the 2016 presidential campaign, frequently pointing to an FBI investigation into his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, over whether she mishandled classified information via a private email server she used as secretary of state. Then-FBI Director James Comey concluded that Clinton had sent and received classified information, but the FBI did not recommend criminal charges.
Trump lambasted that decision and then stepped up his criticism of the FBI as agents began investigating whether his campaign had colluded with Russia to tip the 2016 election. He fired Comey during that probe, and though he appointed Wray months later, he repeatedly criticised him, too, as president.
Thomas Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University history professor who studies and writes about the presidency, said there is no precedent for a former president facing an FBI raid – even going back to Watergate. President Richard Nixon wasn’t allowed to take tapes or other materials from the White House when he resigned in 1974, Schwartz noted, and many of his papers remained in Washington for years before being transferred to his presidential library in California.
The probe is hardly the only legal headache confronting Trump. A separate investigation related to efforts by him and his allies to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election – which led to the Jan 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol – has also been intensifying in Washington. Several former White House officials have received grand jury subpoenas.
And a district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, is investigating whether Trump and his close associates sought to interfere in that state’s election, which was won by Democrat Joe Biden.