Republican colleagues of former U.S. President Donald Trump came to his defense Tuesday, demanding explanations for the FBI search at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida where agents looked for classified documents he took from the White House as his presidency ended in January 2021.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy vowed to open an investigation if the Republicans take control of the chamber from Democrats early next year, which polling suggests is a distinct political possibility.
“I’ve seen enough,” McCarthy said in a tweet. “The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization. When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned.”
He warned Attorney General Merrick Garland, head of the Justice Department, to “preserve your documents and clear your calendar” to testify at an investigation.
Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, said, “I share the deep concern of millions of Americans over the unprecedented search of the personal residence of President Trump. No former president of the United States has ever been subject to a raid of their personal residence in American history.”
Pence said the Monday search of Trump’s Atlantic oceanside estate “undermines public confidence in our system of justice, and Attorney General Garland must give a full accounting to the American people as to why this action was taken, and he must do so immediately.”
Other Republican lawmakers called the search an abuse of power, although the search was court-authorized and likely approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department. Garland’s role, if any, was not known.
Firebrand conservative Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene posted “DEFUND THE FBI!” on Twitter, a play on language some liberals have employed to “defund the police” in response to allegations of excessive force used by local police departments against minorities.
Conservative Fox News host Sean Hannity, a long-time Trump ally, told his millions of viewers Monday night, “Make no mistake, if you are associated with Donald Trump in any way, you better cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s, because they’re coming for you with the full force of the federal government.”
Meanwhile, opposition Democrats said little about the search of Trump’s property, and the White House said President Joe Biden had no advance knowledge of the search, which lasted for hours.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “We believe in the rule of law, and that’s what our country is about. And no person is above the law, not even the president of the United States, not even a former president of the United States.”
Meanwhile, Trump used the search of his winter home as a chance to raise more campaign cash, possibly envisioning another run for the White House in 2024.
In a text message sent to supporters Tuesday morning, Trump declared, “MAR-A-LAGO was raided.” He said, “It’s time for EVERY PATRIOT to step up and stand against the Left’s reckless WITCH HUNTS and political persecution of President Trump!”
He asked donors to contribute between $45 and $5,000.
Trump could disclose the contents of the search warrant but has not. He turned over 15 boxes of materials, some containing classified material, to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in January, a year after he left office.
But the FBI obtained the search warrant to look for more documents and carted away more material after searching Trump’s office and cracking open his safe.
The Presidential Records Act of 1978 established that all presidential records are owned by the public and automatically transfer into the custody of NARA as soon as a commander-in-chief leaves office. All presidential libraries and museums are part of NARA, although Trump has not built such a facility and has shown little interest in doing so.
Trump could face criminal charges for not immediately turning over the classified material as he left office, although such a prosecution would be a rarity.
He also faces investigations for his role in instigating the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers met to certify that Biden had won the 2020 election, and a scheme of some of his lawyers to name electors favoring Trump to replace official electors pledged to Biden.
In addition, Trump is facing an investigation in the southern state of Georgia where he asked a state election official to “find” him enough votes — more than 11,000 — he needed to upend Biden’s victory in the state.