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Then-President-Elect Donald Trump attends a meeting at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., in December 2016.

Then-President-Elect Donald Trump attends a meeting at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., in December 2016. (Jabin Botsford/Washington Post)

Former president Donald Trump's residence at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., was raided Monday by the FBI in what appeared to be part of a long-running investigation of whether documents — some of them top-secret — were taken there instead of being sent to the National Archives when Trump left office.

News of the court-authorized raid prompted recriminations from Trump's fellow Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who threatened to investigate the Justice Department if the GOP takes control of the chamber next year. Democrats, who twice impeached Trump but failed both times to convict him, welcomed the news of the raid.

Christina Bobb, an attorney for Donald Trump, criticized the search warrant used to conduct the raid at Mar-a-Lago as "thin" and confirmed that authorities were looking for classified documents related to the Presidential Records Act.

In an interview on "Real America's Voice" Tuesday, Bobb said she arrived at Mar-a-Lago as the raid was taking place, announced herself as Trump's legal representation and asked to see the warrant.

Bobb said the supporting documentation for what the probable cause was to obtain the warrant was sealed and that they would have to go to court to request a judge release it — "which, you know, may or may not happen."

President Joe Biden was not aware that a warrant had been issued for the FBI to be able to search Mar-a-Lago, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday.

"No, the president was not briefed, did not — was not aware of it," Jean-Pierre said. "No. No one at the White House was given a heads-up. No, that did not happen."

Jean-Pierre said it would be inappropriate for the White House to comment on any ongoing investigation by the Justice Department, stressing that Biden "has been unequivocal since the campaign" that he believes in the department's independence.

While Democrats have been noticeably quieter than Republicans about the raid of Trump's residence, several have pushed back on the notion that Trump wasn't a fair target.

"It's a fundamental truth in our country that no one is above the law," Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., tweeted. "The FBI and DOJ must be allowed to continue their work free from political interference."

Leading Republican lawmakers are calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray to hold news conferences and appear before Congress to explain why the raid was necessary.

During a television appearance Tuesday morning, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said Garland and Wray — as well as Biden — should appear before cameras and "take all questions, explain why they're doing what they're doing, what each of them knew when."

"This should scare every American," Scott, who leads the campaign committee of Senate Republicans, said on Fox Business. "Until we get answers, you should have unbelievable concern."

On Monday night, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Garland and Wray need to appear before Congress.

"Merrick Garland, Chris Wray, come to the House Judiciary Committee this Friday and answer our questions about this action . . . which has never happened in American history," Jordan said on Fox News. "What was on the warrant? What were you really doing? What were you looking for?"

The House is in recess but is planning to be in session Friday to vote on a sweeping Senate-passed economic package.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also weighed in Tuesday morning, writing on Twitter: "Transparency brings accountability & if the FBI & DOJ aren't transparent about raiding a former presidents home they risk further damaging their credibility."

Former vice president Mike Pence said that the FBI raid of Trump's Florida residence had undermined public confidence in the U.S. justice system, and he called on Garland to "give a full accounting."

As he eyes a possible 2024 White House bid, Pence has in some ways sought to distance himself from Trump recently while trying to stay in the good graces of Trump's supporters.

"I share the deep concern of millions of Americans over the unprecedented search of the personal residence of President Trump," Pence said in several tweets Tuesday. "No former President of the United States has ever been subject to a raid of their personal residence in American history."

Pence accused FBI agents of having shown "political motivation" during the Trump administration.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment Monday when asked whether Garland approved the raid. The FBI also declined to comment.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., called for Garland to resign or face impeachment, claiming that the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago amounted to "an unprecedented assault on democratic norms and the rule of law." His statement went further than those of most of his colleagues, who demanded explanations for the raid from Garland and Wray, either in briefings or congressional hearings.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., called for Congress to "defund" the agency and said Republicans should take on "the enemy within" in January, when they are hoping to take control of the House.

While many Republicans have quickly come to Trump's defense, one key Republican has so far remained silent: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The silence is a stark contrast to many members of the House GOP but is characteristic of McConnell. He doesn't mention the former president unprompted and has not disparaged the House select committee's investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, saying he is watching to see what it finds.

Trump, on the other hand, has repeatedly slammed McConnell. He has called him an "old crow," and just this week said McConnell "got played like a fiddle" after the Democrats passed their climate change and health-care bill.

The last time McConnell spoke with Trump was Dec. 15, 2020, after the state electors' vote certifying Joe Biden's win. After the Jan. 6 riot, McConnell called Trump "morally responsible."

Every president has violated the Presidential Records Act in some way, such as by using personal phones for texts or emails, for example, presidential historian Robert David Johnson said. But Trump might be the most egregious violator of the law in its 44 years of existence, Johnson said: "Since [Richard] Nixon, there is no example of a president just pretending the law doesn't exist."

Trump's actions have been on a whole other level. According to Washington Post reporting, he tore up hundreds of documents — perhaps more — indiscriminately. His aides used burn bags to destroy documents rather than hand them over for preservation. There is a gap of more than seven hours on in his phone logs on one of the most crucial days of his presidency, the day of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Earlier this year, the National Archives recovered 15 boxes of White House records from Mar-a-Lago and saw that some of the documents were marked "classified." They asked the Justice Department to investigate, and in April, The Post reported that federal prosecutors were looking into it.

By May, the Justice Department began asking former White House aides about the boxes. They also convened a grand jury, a significant escalation in the investigation, and the grand jury issued a subpoena to learn more.

To get such a high-profile search warrant, the FBI also likely conveyed a sense of urgency to the judge, said Jack Sharman, who served as special counsel to Congress during the Whitewater investigation.

To determine if Trump himself should be charged with a crime, prosecutors would need to assess his knowledge of and intent with taking the documents out of the White House, said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney. And prosecutors would want to know what, specifically, was in them.

"I am very curious as to what was in these documents and why he wanted them," she said. If they were top secret, their classification means that disclosure could be reasonably expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States. "These are the types of documents that would make most of us quiver to hold," McQuade said, "let alone retain unlawfully."

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., suggested in a tweet Tuesday that presidents — and presumably former presidents — should not be subject to criminal raids.

"If the FBI can raid a U.S. President, imagine what they can do to you," Stefanik, the third-ranking House Republican, said in a tweet, referring to Monday's FBI raid of the residence of former president Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Fla.

Like several of her colleagues, Stefanik also pledged to launch an investigation into the Justice Department if Republicans take back control of the House next year.

Trump is seeking to raise money for his political action committee off the FBI raid of his residence.

A text message sent to supporters Tuesday morning announces that "MAR-A-LAGO was raided" and provides a link to donate to Save America, Trump's PAC.

A landing page seeks to stoke more outrage, offering this message: "It's time for EVERY PATRIOT to step up and stand against the Left's reckless WITCH HUNTS and political persecution of President Trump!"

Donors are asked to donate between $45 and $5,000.

Trump's Democratic opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, made a point of hawking merchandise that references the controversy over her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

The merchandise, which includes the slogan, "But her emails," benefits Clinton's political organization, Onward Together.

Trump's advisers said he was not there on Monday when the raid involving more than a dozen FBI agents was conducted. He was at Trump Tower in New York, they said.

Trump briefly addressed the FBI activity during a tele-rally Monday night for former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, R, now a congressional candidate, calling it "another day in paradise." In an earlier statement, he said his home was "under siege."

Trump advisers have denied any bad intent, saying the boxes in question contained mementos from his presidency.

In another development Tuesday, a federal appeals court panel ruled that House Democrats are entitled to review Trump's tax returns for 2015 to 2020, rejecting several legal arguments by the former president, who has sought for years to keep his financial records private.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was a victory for the House Ways and Means Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., first requested in 2019 that the Internal Revenue Service turn over copies of Trump's tax returns to the committee. The Treasury Department initially declined, and the issue has been tied up in litigation ever since.

Trump has a week to appeal the panel's ruling, including asking the full appellate court to hear the case, before the judgment takes effect. Trump's attorney Cameron T. Norris, who is handling the appeal, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., applauded the decision, calling it "an important victory for the rule of law."

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The Washington Post's Leigh Ann Caldwell, Amber Phillips, Amy B Wang and Paul Duggan contributed to this report.


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