The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s raid last week on the home of former President Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, ostensibly for the purpose of retrieving documents containing classified information pertinent to national security, has undermined public trust in federal law enforcement and the Department of Justice (DOJ), experts say.
Though the affidavit that shows the DOJ’s justification in seeking the search warrant remains unsealed and many details have yet to emerge, observers interpret the raid as a symptom of the growing politicization of the DOJ under President Joe Biden and its willingness to bend the law in pursuit of its objectives.
The warrant, unsealed on Aug. 12, showed that Trump was being investigated for potential breaches of three U.S. laws relating to the handling of records, including defense information and records used in federal investigations.
The timing of the raid—just days before a deposition during which the former president invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, in the context of an inquiry into his family’s business dealings—is particularly concerning, observers say.
Opinion within the legal community is divided as to the legality of the raid, and it is important not to jump to conclusions as more details about the deliberations and the legal basis for it—if any—continue to emerge, legal experts caution.
Mark Graber, a law professor at the University of Maryland, dismissed theories raised by Trump and allies suggesting that “the FBI is controlled by the radical left in the United States or that it is there to persecute the Republican Party.”
Rather, he said, “There may be some reason to believe that the FBI is searching Donald Trump’s residence because they have significant evidence and believe that they will find something illegal.”
Graber described the raid as an event that did not happen spontaneously or without any warning, but rather, as the culmination of a process in which the National Archives made requests to Trump for a return of documents taken from the White House at the time of his departure last year, and waited a long time before receiving only some of the requested items.
“These requests had been going on for months. Should they have sent one more email, saying ‘Please return the documents’? I can’t say, but it’s very clear, the government tried to play nice and got nowhere,” Graber told The Epoch Times.
Trump and his lawyers, however, dispute the appropriateness of the FBI’s actions, saying they had been cooperating with investigators for months and they would have provided documents if asked by the feds.