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On Monday evening, following reports that the FBI executed a search warrant at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago country club complex in Palm Beach, Florida, a small crowd of Trump supporters converged near the site in trucks bedecked with flags, in a fury over the federal law enforcement action.
The scene was first reported by Cristian Benavides, a local reporter with NBC 6 News in Miami.
In one of the videos of the scene, Trump supporters could be heard shouting out of their vehicles. "God Bless Trump!" one woman could be heard shouting. At another moment, a passerby shouted, "F*ck Trump!" at the convoy, to which another woman in the group shouted, "F*ck you!"
Still other supporters could be seen gathering on the side of the road, waving Trump flags.
According to previous reports, the raid at Mar-a-Lago was executed as part of the federal investigation into classified documents that were apparently stolen from their proper locations as Trump and his associates left the White House. Some former officials, like Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, recount that the former president paid no attention to regulations surrounding classified information, and would often shred or pocket documents on a whim.
Trump has baselessly claimed that the warrant was part of a political persecution scheme against him, and even compared it to the 1972 break-in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.
\u201cThe scene outside Mar-A-Lago where a search warrant was conducted earlier today\n\nTrump supporters have gathered in front of Mar-A-Lago as well\n\n@nbc6 @NBCNewsNow\u201d— Cristian Benavides (@Cristian Benavides) 1660005714
Former federal prosecutor Harry Litman and Democratic elections lawyer Marc Elias both noted that if the reports are true that the decisions behind the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago has to do with the documents he took from the White House, it would be a crime that, if he was convicted, could bar the former president from ever holding office again.
"This, is by far, not one of the biggest crimes he's been charged with, but, it carries the penalty, that someone who is convicted of it is disqualified from running for future federal office," said Litman. "So, 18 USC 2071, if you destroyed records, when they came and talk to him a few months ago, and carted stuff away. Much of it was documents that have been ripped up. You had, just today, pictures of them stuffing things down the toilet. They may have decided to go after this, disqualify him from future office, secure a conviction, and have that be the broad resolution of the whole problem of Trump. That, in any event, it's huge, but this feature of it that he couldn't run for office in the future is really an enormous aspect of it."
Elias made the same point, saying that the media is missing the big reason why the raid is important. He showed a screen capture of the code that Litman cited, that mentions "concealment, removal, or mutilation generally" of documents. It goes on to proclaim that anyone convicted "shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States."
"Yes, I recognize the legal challenge that application of this law to a president would garner (Since qualifications are set in Constitution). But the idea that a candidate would have to litigate this during a campaign is in my view a 'blockbuster in American politics,'" said Elias.
If Trump is convicted of destruction of documents he is barred from the presidency: legal experts youtu.be
On Monday, after former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago country club in Palm Beach, Florida saw a search warrant executed by the FBI, he compared the warrant to the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. "They even broke into my safe!" he raged. "What is the difference between this and Watergate, where operatives broke into the Democrat [sic] National Committee? Here, in reverse, Democrats broke into the home of the 45th President of the United States."
This evening, taking to Twitter, Garrett M. Graff — a historian who specializes in the Watergate break-in — laid out exactly what the difference was.
"The idea the FBI launched a raid on a former president would have been approved and monitored at the highest level of the Justice Department; hard to even imagine how high the bar of probable cause must've been for the Bureau to initiate such a politically sensitive search," wrote Graff. "A search warrant means an independent federal judge ALSO signed off on the probable cause and, independently, believes evidence there was likely a crime committed AND that more evidence would be found at Mar-a-Lago. That's huge too."
"The fact the search apparently didn't leak until basically when word came from Donald Trump himself shows the FBI and the Justice Department conducted this search by the book and a high degree of integrity. No leaks? Impressive. Surely only a small team knew inside DOJ," Graff continued. "Taken together, this is one of the most significant, sensitive, and politically explosive actions the US Justice Department and FBI have ever taken — one of a tiny handful of times it's ever investigated a president."
"Bottom line: The FBI & DOJ must've known they had the goods," concluded Graff.
The FBI warrant is in connection with a federal investigation into classified documents that were removed from their proper locations as Trump and his associates vacated the White House. Former members of his administration have readily said that Trump was careless with classified information and would often destroy documents, or keep them for himself.