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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.
On CNN Monday, former Trump White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham weighed in on the newly reported FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago as part of the investigation into the mishandling of classified information in the waning days of the administration.
According to Grisham, her former boss had a habit of mishandling classified documents — and she had witnessed him do it.
"Back to what the former president himself has just told us, which is in his anger and ire that they just went into the safe," said anchor Erin Burnett. "This isn't as if there are 15 boxes stuck in a closet. This is an indication there are specific items that may have been pulled out or put somewhere. That's the indication we're getting from the former president himself."
"Absolutely," said Grisham. "I can see he's going to already say exactly, you know, that these were mementos or these were love letters from Kim Jong-un or whatever. I will say right now, the former president of the United States did not handle classified documents properly. I watched him do it. I sat in an airplane with him. I watched him go through documents, throw some away, rip some up, and put some in his pocket...because I remember specifically thinking, I wonder why those go in his pocket?"
Grisham also had a theory about the sorts of documents Trump might have chosen to keep for himself.
"I think this is going to be really interesting," said Grisham. "I think that something big is there. I don't think it's going to be just letters. I think it could be about military operations. This is me speculating, I want to be clear. but I can see the former president thinking those were cool or fun. And we were not a White House that followed the rules. And I will tell you that handling classified information was not something that was really pressed upon us on a daily basis or weekly or monthly."
Stephanie Grisham recounts seeing Trump mishandle classified documents www.youtube.com
Former FBI official Frank Figliuzzi walked MSNBC viewers through what the Miami Field Office had to do to execute today's search warrant on Mar-a-Lago.
"High degree of certainty that it is related to the national archives documents," he told MSNBC
"So, Jason, yeah, not only did I spend 25 years in the FBI but I spent a significant portion of it in the Miami field office which is responsible, of course, for West Palm Beach and the Mar-a-Lago location," explained Figliuzzi. "So, look, not a lot of time right now for internal intersection going on in the Miami field office and/or any other agents from other field offices that came in but rather let's do this job right. They clearly understand the public scrutiny that will be involved. The gravity of the situation and, of course, what's coming next, which will be endless rhetoric from Donald Trump about how horrible the FBI is and how this is a targeted fishing expedition. What we don't know, of course, is really what the substance of this is."
He went on to say that if it was connected to Jan. 6 it is unclear. However, the New York Times and CNN have sources confirming that the raid focused on the National Archives documents. Figiluzzi also confirmed it with as much certainty as he could.
"If you want, if you haven't done this already, to just walk through the process of a federal agent obtaining a search warrant," he continued. "If you want to just go through that and what it means and what it doesn't mean so it simply means that the agents decided and, of course, at this level when you're talking about a former president, this will be cleared at the highest level of the FBI, U.S. Department of Justice and likely crossed the desk of the attorney general of the United States and you have to go to a United States magistrate with a prosecutor and assistant U.S. Attorney and say, 'we have evidence, probable cause, that a federal crime has been violated, and, number two, that evidence of that crime is located in the location we wish to search.' That's the big one, right?"
The magistrate or judge would then look at that and decide how they would move forward.
"Imagine the federal judge or magistrate that may have gotten out of bed this morning," said Figliuzzi. "I've done that before, right, and he's reading through a lengthy affidavit, and he's got to like have his coffee or her coffee and go through it and say holy cow, that's Mar-a-Lago."
He explained the irony of Trump attacking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her treatment of classified emails. But when he had explicitly top-secret and classified documents, he paraded them around from the White House to Mar-a-Lago.
"I understand he's out of town, maybe he will have his aides try to do something. But rest assured, they will keep the site secure and free from anyone tampering with what they are doing," said Figliuzzi. "No one will be allowed to destroy any evidence. That won't happen."
He went on to confirm, "I have a medium to high degree of certainty that this at least is focused in part on national archives case...The time to negotiate and turn everything over is long gone, and now we've reached the point where agents are convincing a judge that they have evidence of a crime."
Ex-FBI official explains what the Miami field office had to do to obtain search warrant for Trump www.youtube.com