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Trump says his Mar-a-Lago home was raided by the FBI

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right. The FBI has carried out a raid at former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The former president announced the news himself this evening. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas joins us now with more. Hi, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: OK. So this news - it's just breaking at this time. What more can you tell us about what happened here?

LUCAS: Well, I'm told that the FBI executed a search warrant on Trump's home at Mar-a-Lago this morning. The FBI is not commenting. The Justice Department isn't commenting either. But as you said, former President Trump himself is. He put out a statement this evening in which he says his home was raided by what he called a large group of FBI agents. True to style, he was a little more bombastic in his language as well.

He said his home is under siege and occupied. He says after working and cooperating with the relevant government agencies, this, quote-unquote, "unannounced raid was unnecessary and inappropriate." He's claiming he's being persecuted for political reasons. Remember, he has a long-running difficult relationship with the Justice Department and the FBI. And he says that this amounts to what he calls the weaponization of the justice system against him.

CHANG: Weaponization of the justice system - OK. So do we know at this point specifically what the agents were looking for?

LUCAS: Well, as I said, the FBI and the Justice Department are not commenting on this. Trump, though, says in his statement that the agents got into his safe. That's as much detail as we have, and that is not confirmed. But we do know that the Justice Department is conducting an investigation into possible mishandling of government secrets by Trump. Remember, top secret papers were found at Mar-a-Lago after he left office. The National Archives and Records Administration has said that more than a dozen boxes of White House records and other items were at Mar-a-Lago. And these are things that, you know, should have been turned over to the National Archives when Trump left office in January of 2021.

CHANG: Right. OK. And Ryan, I'm just curious, like, what would FBI agents need to do in order to conduct a search of Mar-a-Lago?

LUCAS: Right. This isn't something that the local FBI field office would just be able to pop off and do on its own, right?

CHANG: Yeah, yeah.

LUCAS: They would have to get, of course - the agents would have to get a warrant from a federal judge. The investigators would have had to go to the judge and explain where they wanted to search, what they wanted to search for. And they would have to demonstrate that there was probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed and that evidence of that crime was at that specific location - so in this case, at Mar-a-Lago. The agents would have had to be specific as to why they think that evidence is there and why they think it's evidence of a crime.

Something like this, where a former president is involved, is likely to get extra scrutiny from the judge signing off on the warrant, of course, but also extra scrutiny at the FBI and, of course, at the Justice Department - something that's likely to need signoff from the senior levels of the Justice Department itself. I asked the Justice Department whether the attorney general, whether Merrick Garland approved of this step. The Justice Department is not commenting. But again, this is a big step to take against a former president - in this case, former President Donald Trump.

CHANG: That is NPR's Ryan Lucas with news that the FBI has raided former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Thank you so much, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryan Lucas
Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.