- Robert Weissmanpresident of Public Citizen.
Ex-President Donald Trump and supporters expressed outrage on Monday over an FBI raid on his Palm Beach resort Mar-a-Lago. The search, according to multiple media outlets, focused on illegally removed White House records. Robert Weissman, president of the advocacy organization Public Citizen, says while the raid on a former president’s private residence is unprecedented, it is too early to tell how it will impact the ongoing investigation of the January 6 insurrection. “I don’t think that we should jump on board of being too excited and trusting of the FBI,” says Weissman.
AMY GOODMAN: The FBI has seized documents from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Monday morning. Multiple news organizations are reporting the FBI executed the search warrant as part of a probe into whether Trump illegally removed 15 boxes of White House records including some classified documents after he left office. The FBI and Justice Department has made no official comment about what happened Monday. The FBI is run by Christopher Wray, who was appointed by President Trump. The contents of the court-approved search warrant have also not been revealed.
On Monday, Trump issued a statement saying, quote, “My beautiful home, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. They even broke into my safe!” he said. Trump was in New York at the time.
The federal investigation into Trump’s handling of the records has been escalating for months. CNN reports the FBI interviewed aides to Trump in April and May about the missing documents. Then, in June, lawyers with the Justice Department traveled to Mar-a-Lago to see how the documents were being stored and to meet with two of Trump’s lawyers. CNN reports Trump was at Mar-a-Lago during that visit and made small talk with the investigators. Days later, federal investigators sent a letter requesting the documents be stored in a more secure fashion. Aides to Trump reportedly then added a padlock to the door of the room.
Supporters of Trump responded with outrage to the news of the FBI raid. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy threatened to investigate Attorney General Merrick Garland if Republicans win back control of the House in the fall.
This all comes as Donald Trump is facing multiple other investigations over his attempt to overturn the 2020 elections. It also comes as Trump is considering another run for the White House.
We begin today’s show with Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.
Rob, can you explain exactly what took place? This is unprecedented, the FBI raiding the home of a former president.
ROBERT WEISSMAN: Hey, Amy and Juan. It’s great to be with you.
It is unprecedented, and we don’t exactly know what’s going on. And I think we should be cautious about being too excited about this development. They have — they raided Mar-a-Lago, not his other properties, apparently, according to news reports, as you said, in search of classified documents that he improperly took with him when he left the White House and has been storing in Mar-a-Lago. It’s not exactly clear why that, which while illegal, is sufficient that the FBI, with the authorization of the Justice Department, would have taken this step. So, maybe the documents really are important. Maybe they show something that he’s trying to hide. Maybe they actually compromise national security. But I don’t think that we should jump on board of being too excited and trusting of the FBI, and we should be mindful of the problem of massive overclassification and obsessive claims to national security when it comes to government documents. So, in this score, I think we just have to wait and see.
On the bigger picture, in the far more important issue of the January 6 investigations, there we know what happened. The committee has laid it out in incredible detail. We know what we saw with our own eyes. The president orchestrated a coup against the United States of America. And for that, I believe absolutely he should be prosecuted.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Bob Weissman, could you remind our viewers and listeners about the issue that the National Archives raised about President Trump taking a whole bunch of official presidential records out of the White House when he left and that some of these were supposedly classified, as well?
ROBERT WEISSMAN: Right. He just took a lot of stuff with him. You know, when you’re president, the materials you generate, those aren’t yours. Those belong to the American people. And there’s a whole process both for national security materials and, in general, to have those stored at the National Archives and be part of the historical record, and also, obviously, kept classified when they’re secret materials.
We know that Trump, by nature and specifically, didn’t care about proper document retention policies. We have, you know, ongoing and new reports that he ripped up documents and flushed them down the toilet. Obviously, given his personality, he’s not a guy who’s going to take this stuff seriously. So, if he took at least 15 boxes of documents with him and it’s been a struggle to get those documents back to the National Archives where they belong, it may well be that this raid is just about that, or it may be that there’s something that’s really specific in these documents that poses a bigger risk than just the fact that he improperly took documents he shouldn’t have taken.