FBI Raid on Mar-a-Lago

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I would be remiss if I did not comment on last Monday’s FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, one of the most egregious violations of the Fourth Amendment in American history.  To form an opinion on the FBI search and seizure at former President Trump’s private residence required a little patience to wait and see some of the facts, at least what the Department of Justice (DOJ) may have been willing to reveal.  After several days of intense scrutiny, Attorney General, Merrick Garland, succumbed to the pressure and held a brief news conference on Thursday the 11th, wherein he announced that DOJ had given Trump and his lawyers an opportunity to object to the release of the Warrant.  Trump waived the option and the Warrant was released to the public on August 12th, the day after Garland’s announcement.

What Does the Warrant Say ?

In reference to the Warrant, DOJ cited three specific federal statutes; 18 U.S. Code § 793, 18 U.S. Code § 2071, and 18 U.S. Code § 1519.  I’ll get to these under a different Header but first I want to focus on Attachment B.

You can read the full 4-page Warrant and 3-page Receipt for Property HERE

If I’m not mistaken, this Warrant seems to be a “dragnet” search for literally anything.  Under “Property to be seized” it says, All physical documents and records . . . “ ; under “a” it says, Any physical documents . . . “ ; under “b” it says, “information, including communications in any form . . . “ ; under “c” it says, “Any government and/or Presidential Records . . . “ ; and under the last item “d” (not shown) it says, in full, “Any evidence of the knowing alteration, destruction, or concealment of any government and/or Presidential Records, or of any documents with classification markings.”  In short, that should cover anything and everything.

Then we look at the Fourth Amendment and see that it says;

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

We could argue whether the search was reasonable, but that is not my point of emphasis here.  I want to highlight two aspects of the Amendment; firstly, the DOJ prepared a “Probable Cause Affidavit”, as required, to present to a federal judge, Magistrate Bruce Reinhart, for issuance of the warrant, but they have refused to release said Affidavit to the public.  What exactly does that Affidavit say that American citizens are not entitled to review ?  Secondly, the above Attachment B clearly states that the FBI was looking for (in “c”), “any government or Presidential Records”, which essentially means they could take anything and everything, whereas the Fourth Amendment stipulates that “things to be seized” must be particularly described.  Attachment B is not “particular” by any stretch of the imagination.

The Cited Federal Statutes

On page 4 of the Warrant under “Property to be seized”, the DOJ lists three federal statutes that constitute potential violations if the government can prove that former President Trump possessed any documents illegally, the key word being “illegally”.

Under Title 18 U.S. Code § 793 – Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information  [1], with particular interest drawn to section (d), wherein it states, in essence that any person who lawfully possesses documents, photos, maps, notes, etc. related to the national defense, AND believes could be used to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, or transmits, or attempts to communicate, deliver, or transfer said information to any person not authorized to receive it; or, willfully retains it and fails to deliver it on demand to any officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it.

Under section (e) the same language is used verbatim with the distinction of the clause pertaining to unauthorized person(s) who may possess such information, as opposed to one legally in possession.  In a case concerning the President of the United States, he/she obviously held such information legally while in office.  Apparently, the pertinent portion of the statute is the last part, whereby the DOJ (wink,wink: the Biden Administration) considers it illegal for a former President to “retains it and fails to deliver it”, the said documents, after leaving office, despite a long history of Presidents having archival materials hauled away from the White House.  I’ll address the machinations of this procedure under the next Header. 

Previous subpoena requests for documents to be returned to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) were being complied with by Trump, but his cooperation was apparently not enough to prevent this unprecedented FBI raid.

Under Title 18 U.S. Code § 2071 –  Concealment, removal, or mutilation generally  [2], with respect to the assortment of documents removed from Mar-a-Lago, it’s obvious that Trump did not willfully conceal, destroy, or mutilate any of the records.  I suppose the DOJ is resting their case on the fact that Trump had yet to deliver/return some of the materials “removed” and packaged up by the GSA.

Under Title 18 U.S. Code § 1519 – Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy  [3], again it is obvious Trump did not destroy, or alter any of the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago, unlike the 33,000 emails and every trace of them from her illegal private server, destroyed by Hillary Clinton using BleachBit and sledge hammers.  Oh wait, I almost forgot, she’s a prominent Democrat and therefore ABOVE the law.  I suppose by including this statute in the list of potential violations, it could have been relevant IF it was discovered that destruction took place.  Evidently there can be no charge on this statute.

The Presidential Records Act of 1978

All former Presidents before Nixon (Jan 20, 1969-Aug 9, 1974), were entitled to retain their own presidential records as personal property.  Due to Nixon’s Watergate scandal, by which he was forced to resign in disgrace, Congress passed the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, making Nixon’s infamous tape recordings public property.  But that legislation applied only to Nixon’s administration.  [4]

Congress later passed the Presidential Records Act of 1978 (44 U.S. Code §§ 2201-2209) [5], with the intentions of preserving all presidential records as public property under the care and management of the National Archives.  The President is entitled to restrict access for as many as 12 years for certain records such as, executive orders, appointments to federal office, trade secrets, health records, and confidential communications.

44 U.S. Code § 2203, sub-section:(g)(1) “Upon the conclusion of a President’s term of office, or if a President serves consecutive terms upon the conclusion of the last term, the Archivist of the United States shall assume responsibility for the custody, control, and preservation of, and access to, the Presidential records of that President . . . “

Beginning with the Reagan administration, all presidential records, and those of the Vice-President, were to be sent directly to the National Archives and preserved as historical documents open to the American people.  Despite Trump’s claim that Obama hauled away 30 million pages, his archives are in the custody of a NARA office in Chicago.  [2]

However, it is customary for the General Services Administration (GSA) to package up the presidential records and it stands to reason that they would then take custody and deliver them to NARA.  The President isn’t expected to pack his own boxes and it’s unlikely that he would, unless of course, there was something he was trying to hide.  So  questions arise.  Why would the GSA send the boxes to Mar-a-Lago and not directly to the NARA ? And who was in charge of the chain of custody ?

I can think of only four possibilities; either Trump had some boxes sent to Mar-a-Lago in secrecy, either knowingly, or unwittingly; or the GSA did not act properly, either by mistake, or intentionally.

In any case, it was evident that Trump was cooperating in the effort to have those records returned to NARA and the Warrant to have them seized was extreme.


We have likely seen the extent of the DOJ’s comments, and we really won’t know the outcome of their investigation any time soon.  Don’t be surprised if their “investigation” lasts two years, designed to leave Trump under legal scrutiny all the while, before announcing they may have indictable charges in October 2024, just in time to destroy his expected candidacy. 

To me, the way the DOJ described Attachment B was extremely broad, and does not meet the “specificity” requirements of the Fourth Amendment, which leads me to the belief that the raid was a “fishing expedition” whereby they targeted a political opponent and conducted their search and seizure operation gathering everything they could find, in the hopes of finding something they could call illegal. 

Perhaps the PRA of 1978 allows the DOJ to phrase their Warrant so broadly, but the whole episode seems extreme and unnecessary.  American justice is founded in the principle of responding to a crime, conducting a thorough investigation, and identifying the perpetrator.  Targeting a person you hate and then trying to pin a crime on him is immoral, unjust, and corrupt.



[1]  Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School


[2]  Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School


[3]  Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School


[4]  Myre, Greg & Davis, Wynne ; The Reasons Why Presidents Can’t Keep Their White House Records Dates Bck to Nixon, NPR ; August 13, 2022


[5]  Presidential Records Act of 1978

Presidential Records (44 U.S.C. Chapter 22) | National Archives

[6]  Papenfuss, Mary ; National Archives Calls Out Trump’s False Accusation That Obama Snatched Documents, Huffington Post ; August 13, 2022


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