Washington, D.C. – Former United States president Donald Trump tried on Tuesday to turn the news that the FBI had searched his Florida estate to his benefit, citing the investigation in text messages and emails soliciting political donations from his supporters.
The unprecedented search marked a significant escalation of the federal investigation into whether Trump illegally removed records from the White House as he was leaving office in January last year.
Trump continues to flirt publicly with running again for president in 2024, but he has not said clearly whether he will do so.
The warrant was related to the National Archives and Records Administration, which is charged with safeguarding presidential records that belong to the public, and whether there were classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The person said the FBI took about 10 boxes of papers, but that a safe that was searched was empty.
Trump tried to paint the search as a politically motivated move by the administration of current U.S. president Joe Biden at a time when the former president is playing a key role in Republican primaries ahead of the November mid-term elections that will determine control of the U.S. Congress.
“They are trying to stop the Republican Party and me once more,” Trump said in a fund-raising email on Tuesday. “The lawlessness, political persecution, and Witch Hunt, must be exposed and stopped.”
Trump launched his Save America political action committee days after losing the 2020 election to Biden. It has more than U.S. $100 million in the bank, a formidable war chest.
His Republican allies in Congress vowed to launch an investigation of the search itself if they recapture control of the House or Senate in November.
House Republicans, including Representative Jim Banks, were set to meet with Trump on Tuesday at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club.
The Justice Department and FBI have declined to comment on or even confirm the search, which Trump revealed in a statement on Monday.
The FBI could not have conducted the search without the approval of a judge who confirmed there was probable cause.
The request almost certainly needed to 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.