Trump has been alleged to have taken classified materials from the White House to Mar-a-Lago when the Republican left office in January 2021
Washington, U.S. | Xinhua | Concern is rising about more occurrence of political violence in the United States after the search of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate by federal agents.
Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) searched Trump’s estate in Mar-a-Lago, a resort in Florida’s Palm Beach, last week, as part of a probe launched by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) into whether the former president had mishandled classified documents.
A federal judge unsealed on Friday the search warrant, which showed investigators had been authorized to seize any physical documents with classification markings, as well as information “regarding the retrieval, storage, or transmission of national defense information or classified material.”
It also allowed the agents to take any government records created during the Trump presidency and “any evidence of the knowing alteration, destruction, or concealment of any government and/or Presidential Records, or of any documents with classification markings.”
A “receipt for property” contained 33 seized items, including 11 sets of documents described either as “classified/TS/SCI,” “top secret,” “secret,” or “confidential.”
The warrant also listed three potential criminal violations — concealment or removal of federal records, destruction or alteration of records in a federal investigation, and transmission of defense information, per three laws including a key facet of the Espionage Act.
The Espionage Act has been used against those who leak classified information and those who remove classified information from secure facilities and store it at home.
Following the Mar-a-Lago search, the White House stressed they had no private knowledge of the FBI’s raid.
“We do not interfere. We do not get briefed. We do not get involved,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl in an exclusive interview on Sunday. “This is a law enforcement matter. And the Department of Justice is going to move forward as they see fit.”
Trump responded that the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago had all been “declassified” while accusing the DOJ of “playing politics.”
Meanwhile, violent threats and calls for “civil war” erupted on pro-Trump forums online, with some far-right figures publicly spreading violent rhetoric. Republican lawmakers and Trump’s conservative allies have also rallied to demand an explanation from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Garland told reporters on Thursday that he personally “approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter” and the DOJ “does not take such a decision lightly.” He also attempted to brush off the criticism from the Trump world, which he said was “unfounded.”
On Thursday, an armed man in Cincinnati, Ohio, tried to breach the FBI field office, and was fatally shot after a standoff. The male was identified as 42-year-old Navy veteran Ricky Shiffer who may have had ties to extremist groups in the United States.
Shiffer appeared to have posted messages on Truth Social — a media platform started by Trump for conservatives — about his effort to get into the FBI Cincinnati office.
“Well, I thought I had a way through bullet proof glass, and I didn’t,” an account with Shiffer’s name wrote. “If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I., and it’ll mean either I was taken off the internet, the F.B.I. got me, or they sent the regular cops while.”
That account also told others to “get whatever you need to be ready for combat,” and urged them to kill the FBI “on sight, and be ready to take down other active enemies of the people and those who try to prevent you from doing it.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray issued a statement on Thursday, saying the “attacks on the integrity of the FBI erode respect for the rule of law.”
“Violence and threats against law enforcement, including the FBI, are dangerous and should be deeply concerning to all Americans,” Wray suggested.
On Sunday, multiple U.S. media outlets reported that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security had recently issued a joint intelligence bulletin, warning of a spike in threats to federal law enforcement officials.
There has been an increase in violent threats posted on social media against federal officials and facilities, including threats to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI headquarters and general calls for “civil war” and “armed rebellion,” the bulletin reportedly read.
It also called on officials to be aware of issues related to domestic violent extremists, as well as past and present incidents, and to stay vigilant.
FIGHT FOR QUALIFICATION
Trump has been alleged to have taken classified materials from the White House to Mar-a-Lago when the Republican left office in January 2021.
The Presidential Records Act requires that all records created by presidents be turned over to the National Archives at the end of their administrations.
According to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), some of the Trump presidential records received by the federal agency included paper records that had been torn up by the former president.
In January, the NARA also arranged for the transport from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives of 15 boxes that contained presidential records. Prosecutors reportedly launched a criminal probe into Trump’s mishandling of classified documents in April.
Trump has not been charged with any crime by the DOJ, and it is not clear whether he will be charged.
Nevertheless, it is unlikely Trump would be banned from running for the White House again if he were convicted, since the U.S. Constitution would take precedence over the statute, said legal analysts.
“Can’t impose qualifications on holding the presidency by statute — the qualifications are set out in the Constitution,” Washington Post legal columnist Jason Willick tweeted Tuesday.
Marc Elias, Democratic Party elections lawyer, stressed that there is still a possibility that Trump would have to fight for his qualification for a second White House bid in court.
The idea that a candidate would have to litigate it during a presidential campaign is a “blockbuster in American politics,” Elias tweeted Tuesday.