WASHINGTON (CN) — Questions loom over the FBI raid on President Donald Trump's south Florida home on Monday as the Justice Department is refusing to comment, Democrats are calling for decorum, Republicans are promising payback and Americans’ trust in the federal government hangs in the balance.
“A raid of a former president’s home is unprecedented,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told Courthouse News on Tuesday.
Given the political gravity surrounding the U.S. government searching the home of an ex- president for the first time ever, Rahmani said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland – the nation’s top prosecutor who was appointed by President Joe Biden – had to give the greenlight.
“There’s no way the FBI raids Trump’s home without signoff from the attorney general,” he said, “because that’s not a decision even the deputy attorney general is empowered to make.”
“We’re talking about the former president, so it’s a political powder keg,” he added.
But with the Department of Justice and FBI declining to comment, it remains unclear what agents were searching for – and whether they found it.
Trump's attorney Christina Bobb told CNN that the FBI “seized paper” during the “unannounced” raid on the home of the 45th president, who, along with his legal team, “have been cooperative with FBI and DOJ officials every step of the way.”
Although she did not specify what they “have been cooperative with,” the former president’s son Eric Trump told Fox host Sean Hannity on Monday night, "The purpose of the raid, from what they said, was because the National Archives wanted to, you know, corroborate whether or not Donald Trump had any documents in his possession.”
The National Archives said that in January, at least 15 boxes of White House records were retrieved from Mar-a-Lago that should have been given to the agency when Trump left office.
Former U.S. Attorney Richard Signorelli tweeted Tuesday that if the raid is linked to the National Archives seeking presidential records, “there likely would have been no need for a search warrant to be executed if [Trump] had simply returned all of the docs that he allegedly stole.”
Signorelli insisted Trump “forced Garland’s hand thinking that Garland was too weak to stop him.”
The former president said on Monday night that it was a “dark day” for the nation and that federal agents “even broke into my safe.”
Depending on what was or was not recovered, Signorelli said the Justice Department “may now have obtained evidence of criminality” by the 45th president.
Echoing his sentiments, Rahmani said the raid could lead to “serious criminal exposure” for Trump.
“The most likely charge that would apply would be 18 USC 2071, which involves concealment or destruction of government documents and that carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison,” he said.
And if convicted, Rahmani said Trump could also be disqualified from holding public office, “so he would not be able to run in 2024.”
While Democrats are emphasizing that the raid proves no one is above the law, Republicans are threatening an investigation of the Justice Department and attorney general.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the raid a “major step” during a Tuesday morning interview on NBC’s "Today Show.”
“[Democrats] believe in the rule of law, and that's what our country is about and no person is above the law, not even the president of the United States, not even a former president of the United States,” she said.
Pelosi, who has made her disdain for the former president well-known, is the highest-ranking Democrat to comment on the search so far.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy criticized the raid and said he has “seen enough.”
“The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization,” the California Republican said in a statement.
Garland has vowed to maintain the Justice Department’s independence from the White House, but a November 2021 report by the department’s internal watchdog said it one of his biggest challenges will be proving to the public that the DOJ is not politicized.
With midterm elections about three months away, McCarthy said that, “When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned."
The Republican House leader left the attorney general with a warning: “Preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”
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