The FBI’s raid of former President Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, was an unprecedented step by an agency already faced with the task of responding to an historic moment.
Agents raided the resort complex sometime early Monday evening, according to the former president, who released a statement as it occurred. The news rocked Washington, which has never seen this sort of law enforcement activity directed at a former president.
The former president complained in his statement released shortly before 7pm local time that Mar-a-Lago “is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents”.
As the news trickled out over Monday evening and into Tuesday morning, it became clear who had the facts and who didnt, as did the need for the Justice Department to provide answers to the public quickly.
Before the Justice Department officially outlines why this shocking action was taken, lets look at who knew what, and when:
You’d think Donald Trump would have been the first person to know about an FBI raid on his home. But he was actually in New York at the time; videos showed him leaving Trump Tower in Manhattan shortly after he announced news of the raid. His statement about the agents’ actions were based on a secondhand account of the situation.
Attorney General Merrick Garland
Though the Justice Department has not commented publicly, it’s an almost certainty that a raid of this significance would have required his personal signature on the decision. The attorney general has previously vowed to follow the facts in the January 6 investigation (and, by extension, all other criminal probes) to wherever the evidence leads, regardless of rank or privilege.
An federal judge in Florida
Any search warrant requires a judge’s approval, and the raid of Mar-a-Lago was no different. The identity of the judge who signed off on the raid is not yet officially known, but according to The Guardian, approval was sought and obtained from a federal magistrate judge based out of West Palm Beach, Florida. The New York Post reported that Judge Bruce Reinhart approved the warrant.
The White House and the president appeared to have been caught off-guard, like everyone else, by the news. That’s how it’s supposed to work, as the Justice Department typically operates independently from the White House despite being part of the Executive Branch. Senior White House officials told reporters for various media outlets Monday evening that the West Wing had no advance notice of the raid.
Democrats in Congress
Like Joe Biden, Democrats in Congress were not informed about the raid before it occurred. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer confirmed as much to various news outlets; Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday that she learned of the raid when the news alert “flashed on my phone”.
Republicans in Congress
Just like their rivals, Republicans were caught flat-footed on Monday and didn’t have a unified response to the news. A handful warned that such an action would necessitate great care and held their judgement, while the majority drew their guns and opened fire on the Justice Department, blasting it as polticised and weaponised by the Democrats.
One of the clearest examples of the GOP’s discord came from party leaders; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy warned Merrick Garland by name to prepare for congressional investigations led by a GOP-controlled Congress, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a rival of Trump’s, did not comment Monday at all.