An FBI confidential human source informed the bureau of classified documents that the former president was keeping in Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida resort which he moved into after leaving the White House in 2021. The FBI’s warrant application to search Trump’s residence was based largely off of information fed to the bureau from the source, down to what the documents contained and where they were being kept, two senior government officials told Newsweek.
The officials, who were not named, said that the FBI planned the raid to take place while Trump was away from the property. Bureau officials believed that searching Mar-a-Lago when Trump is away would help keep the raid low-profile and avoid unwanted attention in the press. The raid had the opposite effect. The unprecedented FBI raid, the first ever conducted on a former U.S. president, brought down a firestorm of criticism on the FBI, Department of Justice (DOJ), and President Joe Biden.
“What a spectacular backfire,” a DOJ official told Newsweek. The official maintained that the raid was not political persecution, as Trump and others have claimed. The official asserted that the FBI raid was part of “a routine law enforcement action.”
Trump attorney Lindsey Halligan was on scene and described the raid to CBS News. Dozens of FBI officials, not in uniform to avoid attention, worked with the Secret Service, still responsible for the former president’s security, to gain access to Trump’s residence. Agents paid special attention to a bedroom, a storage area, and an office.
The informant reportedly told the FBI that confidential documents were stored in specific locations around Trump’s residence. The FBI relayed that information in its warrant application to federal magistrate judge, believed to be Bruce Reinhart of Florida. The warrant apparently specified that certain documents were kept in Trump’s safe, however, Eric Trump has said that the safe the FBI searched was empty.
The relationship between the raid informant and the FBI is unclear. The FBI’s use of confidential human sources is rife with controversy and critics say that the informants are too often motivated by money rather than public service. Informants can make tens of thousands, or possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars from the FBI during investigations. Confidential human sources may commit illegal acts themselves in service of the FBI or obtain information through dubious means to push an investigation forward.
Reports say that the FBI agents took away 10-15 boxes away from Trump’s residence, though it is unclear what was contained in those boxes.
The warrant referred to possible violations of the Presidential Records Act, according to Trump attorney Christina Bobb. The FBI was after classified documents Trump allegedly improperly took from the White House when he vacated in January 2021.
Late last year, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), in charge of preserving government records, contacted Trump about the records he took. Trump turned over 15 boxes-worth of document to the archives in January. DOJ officials met with Trump in June about additional documents, but talks between the two sides apparently broke down until the FBI raided Trump’s residence on Monday.