As he strongly hints at another campaign for the White House in 2024, former U.S. President Donald Trump is facing major federal and state criminal investigations into his actions in the immediate aftermath of his failed reelection campaign in 2020.
Monday's unprecedented FBI raid at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida was the latest indication that investigators remain focused on the country's 45th president. Reports say the investigators were seeking classified documents he may have taken with him when he left Washington last year.
The search was court-authorized and was likely sanctioned at the highest levels of the Justice Department. But details of the search warrant filed by investigators and their justification for it are not yet publicly known. The White House says it was not given advance notice of the raid.
Under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, the official records of all presidents and vice presidents remain publicly owned, even after they leave office. The statute's premise is that the papers belong to the American public, not the individuals who served as the country's leaders.
About a year after he left office, Trump turned over to the National Archives 15 boxes of documents from his presidency, some of which were said to include classified papers. But investigators who searched Trump's office and opened a safe at his Florida seaside estate Monday carted away more documents that were not turned over in January.
Trump belittled the search, much as he has the election-related investigations, as an attempt to keep him from running again in 2024.
"These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents," the former president said in a statement.
"Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before," he said, contending the search was the result of "prosecutorial misconduct, the weaponization of the Justice System, and an attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don't want me to run for President in 2024."
He claimed such a event "could only take place in broken, Third-World Countries. Sadly, America has now become one of those Countries, corrupt at a level not seen before."
Trump retains a wide following among a base of Republican voters, although an array of Republican officials, including Mike Pence, Trump's vice president, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others, have been broadly hinting they could seek the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
The Justice Department is also investigating Trump's role in instigating the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, when about 2,000 of his supporters rampaged into the building to block lawmakers from certifying Democrat Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election. At a rally shortly beforehand, Trump urged supporters to walk to the Capitol and "fight like hell."
Despite White House aides and then-Attorney General William Barr repeatedly telling Trump there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the vote-counting sufficient to overturn his defeat, Trump demanded publicly and privately that Pence stop certification of the Electoral College vote count favoring Biden.
But Pence refused to do so on the advice of lawyers who told him the Constitution did not give him that authority.
Investigators are looking into the role Trump played in carrying out a plan promoted by some of his advisers to name unauthorized slates of electors in states where he lost who would seek to replace the official electors pledged to Biden.
In the United States, presidents are effectively chosen in separate elections in each of the 50 states, not through the national popular vote. Each state's number of electoral votes is dependent on its population, with the biggest states holding the most sway. The rioters who stormed the Capitol tried to keep lawmakers from certifying Biden's eventual 306-232 victory in the Electoral College.
In a third investigation, a prosecutor in the southern state of Georgia is investigating Trump for possible solicitation of election fraud.
In a taped January 2, 2021, telephone call, Trump asked Georgia's top election official to "find" him 11,780 votes — one more than Biden defeated him by — out of 5 million ballots that were cast in the state.
During the call, Trump said, "I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break."