Tuesday, June 06, 2023

I’d like to respectfully disagree with the “Teaneck Republican Municipal Committee Letter Regarding FBI Raid on President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Home” (September 8, 2022). They characterized the legal search of Donald Trump’s beach club and resort as “an invasion,” “egregious raid” and a “break-in.” In reality, it was a legally approved and executed search warrant authorized by the U.S. Attorney General and approved by Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart. This followed a criminal referral by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), a nonpartisan government agency. They d the warrant as part of a Trump’s resort regarding the handling investigation of Trump relating to three federal criminal statutes:

Violations of the Espionage Act

Intent to impede, obstruct or influence federal government activity

Illegal removal or destruction of federal government records

A little background would be useful. In May of 2021,a NARA lawyer reached out to Trump’s office of record keeping for return of missing documents that weren’t handed over before Trump left the White House. By September/October of 2021, NARA had not received any government documents held by Trump.

In January 2022, NARA received 15 boxes of documents, representing only a portion of those requested. On February 9, 2022, NARA asked the Justice Department to investigate if Trump’s handling of documents violated the Presidential Records Act, which requires all records, classified or not, to be turned over to the National Archives at the end of their administration. On February 18, 2022, NARA informed the Justice Department that some of the recovered documents included classified material. Additionally, the Trump administration did not preserve social media messages, sent, drafted or deleted, as required by law.

On April 7, 2022 NARA publicly acknowledged that the Justice department was involved. At this time, FBI agents begin interviewing Trump aides at his beach resort regarding the handling of these records. On April 11, 2022, the FBI requested access to the documents already retrieved. On April 29, the Justice Department asked Trump’s lawyers for the return of remaining documents. Trump’s lawyers asked to review the documents first, and asked NARA to delay giving access to the FBI. On May 1, 2022, Trump’s lawyers asked NARA again to delay handing over documents to the FBI. On May 10, 2022, the acting archivist of the U.S. informed Trump’s lawyers that she would be handing the documents over to the FBI. On May 11, the Justice Department subpoenaed Trump for the remaining documents. After some give and take, in early June, Trump’s lawyers handed over the “remaining” documents and asserted in a letter that there were no more classified documents in the beach house.

On August 8, the FBI legally executed a search warrant. Far from being an invasion or break-in, they rang the bell, identified themselves, showed their badges and searched the premises. They notified the Secret Service a few hours in advance. The Secret Service facilitated FBI access to the facility.

To your claim that Trump and his supporters will only use democratic and peaceful means, I point to several examples: the armed insurrectionists attacking our Capitol, Trump and Lindsay Graham issuing veiled threats about violence if Trump is charged, an armed Trump supporter attempting to attack the Cincinnati FBI office, and the torrent of threats on social media against the FBI, Justice Department officials and Reinhart. 

For now, it is out of our hands. We will have to wait and see how the criminal investigation plays out and what, if any charges are brought. We should not engage in hyperbole, and to quote Merrick Garland, we should “follow the facts wherever they lead.”

David Twersky

Sign up now!