The DOJ subpoenaed Trump for classified documents before authorizing the Mar-a-Lago raid, NYT reported.
Sources told NYT investigators believed some of the documents were so sensitive that the DOJ felt it had no choice but to send in the feds.
Conservative commentator and Trump ally John Solomon first revealed the existence of the subpoena Wednesday night.
A grand jury subpoenaed former President Donald Trump for classified documents he took from the White House to Mar-a-Lago before the FBI took the dramatic step of searching his home, The New York Times reported.
Two people who were briefed on the documents, some of which were classified, told The Times that investigators believed some of the material was so sensitive and critical to national security that the Justice Department had no choice but to send FBI agents to retrieve them from Mar-a-Lago.
Legal experts say the process of obtaining the search warrant likely started weeks ago and that it was approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department, including FBI Director Christopher Wray — who Trump appointed in 2017 after firing James Comey — and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Trump's lawyer, Christina Bobb, told news outlets that investigators seized around a dozen boxes from the compound's basement storage area in their raid.
Trump announced the raid on Monday. In a lengthy statement, he accused the Justice Department and the FBI of "prosecutorial misconduct" and "political persecution," adding: "They even broke into my safe!"
It was initially unclear what the search warrant related to, but ABC News later cited sources saying it was related to 15 boxes of documents that Trump had taken to Mar-a-Lago upon leaving office. He returned them to the archives in January after being told to give them back, but the agency asked the Justice Department in February to investigate if Trump broke the law when he initially moved the documents.
Bobb told The Washington Post that the search warrant, which has not been publicly released, indicated that investigators are examining if there were any violations of laws around classified materials.
Gene Rossi, a longtime former federal prosecutor, also told Insider this week that he would be "shocked" if the affidavit supporting the warrant didn't include probable cause suggesting Trump violated other laws including statutes against obstruction, insurrection, sedition, and more.
"You only get one shot at doing a search of Donald Trump's home," he said. "The Department of Justice is not going to blow their wad, in my view, on just looking at ... the records statute."
John Solomon, a conservative commentator who also represents Trump before the National Archives, first revealed the existence of the subpoena late Wednesday on his website.
Solomon wrote that the subpoena was sent in June and that Trump replied by "turning over responsive evidence, surrendering security surveillance footage and allowing federal agents and a senior Justice Department lawyer to tour his private storage locker, according to a half dozen people familiar with the incident."
Following Monday's raid, Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal reported that an informant tipped authorities off that classified government documents may have been improperly stored at Mar-a-Lago.
Trump's longtime former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, told CNN on Thursday that Trump likely feels "trapped" and fears that whoever tipped off the feds has more dirt on him.
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