Trump uses FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home to solicit campaign donations

“WITHERING SCRUTINY”

The FBI could not have conducted the search without the approval of a judge who confirmed there was probable cause. The request almost certainly also would be approved by FBI director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee, and his boss, Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was appointed by Biden.

A White House official said Biden was not given advance notice of the search.

“This search warrant in my estimation probably underwent more withering scrutiny that any search warrant in the history of the Department of Justice,” said David Laufman, a former Justice Department official who oversaw prosecutions of national security offenses.

The FBI earlier this year visited Trump’s property to investigate boxes in a locked storage room, according to a person familiar with the visit. FBI agents and a Trump lawyer, Evan Corcoran, spent a day reviewing materials, the source said.

Corcoran did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The search is only an investigative step and does not mean that Trump will automatically face criminal charges, or that he would be found guilty of any wrongdoing.

It is a criminal offense to conceal or destroy government records. Any person convicted of violating a US law called the Government Records Act could be barred from holding federal office and would face a prison term of up to three years.

Legal experts said it is unclear whether the disqualification provision is constitutional. The US Constitution sets forth the qualifications for being a president, senator, or US representative. Previous Supreme Court rulings have held that Congress cannot limit the list of eligible officeholders.

The documents probe is one of several investigations that have focused on Trump since he left office, weeks after his supporters stormed the US Capitol on Jan 6, 2021, in an unsuccessful bid to overturn his election loss. Trump continues to claim falsely that the election was stolen through widespread voting fraud.

Trump remains the Republican Party’s most influential voice, and observers said this FBI search could bolster his standing with Republican voters.

“The Biden administration is only adding rocket fuel to Trump’s campaign prospects and energising his supporters who want him to run again,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist in Washington.

“There should be more transparency around the decision to have this FBI raid because it looks overly political and allows Trump to say he’s being unfairly attacked.”