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FBI searches Trump’s Florida estate for classified records

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI searched Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence, people familiar with the matter said, a dramatic and unprecedented escalation of law enforcement scrutiny of the former president.

Trump, disclosing the search in a lengthy statement, asserted that agents had opened a safe at his home and described their work as an “unannounced raid” that he likened to “prosecutorial misconduct.” He was in New York, planning to meet later Tuesday at his Bedminster, New Jersey, club with members of the Republican Study Committee, a group headed by Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana that says it is committed to putting forth his priorities in Congress.

Monday’s search intensified the months-long probe into how classified documents ended up in boxes of White House records located at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year. A separate grand jury is investigating efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, and it all adds to potential legal peril for Trump as he lays the groundwork for another run.

About two dozen Trump supporters stood in protest at midmorning Tuesday in the Florida summer heat and sporadic light rain on a bridge near the former president’s residence. One held a sign reading “Democrats are Fascists” while others carried flags saying “2020 Was Rigged,” “Trump 2024″ and Biden’s name with an obscenity. Some cars honked in support as they passed.

Familiar battle lines, forged during a a four-year presidency shadowed by investigations, quickly took shape again. Trump and his allies sought to cast the search as a weaponization of the criminal justice system and a Democratic-driven effort to keep him from winning another term in 2024 — though the Biden White House said it had no prior knowledge and current FBI Director Christopher Wray was appointed by Trump five years ago.

Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence, a potential 2024 rival, tweeted on Tuesday: “Yesterday’s action 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”

Trump wrote Monday night, “These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” Trump wrote. “Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.”

“After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump said.

Justice Department spokesperson Dena Iverson declined to comment on the search, including whether Attorney General Merrick Garland had personally authorized it.

The FBI reached out to the Secret Service shortly before serving a warrant, a third person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. Secret Service agents contacted the Justice Department and were able to validate the warrant before facilitating access to the estate, the person said.

The Justice Department has been investigating the potential mishandling of classified information since the National Archives and Records Administration said it had received from Mar-a-Lago 15 boxes of White House records, including documents containing classified information, earlier this year. The National Archives said Trump should have turned over that material upon leaving office, and it asked the Justice Department to investigate.

There are multiple federal laws governing the handling of classified records and sensitive government documents, including statutes that make it a crime to remove such material and retain it at an unauthorized location. Though a search warrant does not necessarily mean criminal charges are near or even expected, federal officials looking to obtain one must first demonstrate to a judge that they have probable cause that a crime occurred.

Two people familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the search on Monday was related to the records probe. Agents were also looking to see if Trump had additional presidential records or any classified documents at the estate.

Trump has previously maintained that presidential records were turned over “in an ordinary and routine process.” His son Eric said on Fox News on Monday night that he had spent the day with his father and that the search happened because “the National Archives wanted to corroborate whether or not Donald Trump had any documents in his possession.”

Asked how the documents ended up at Mar-a-Lago, Eric Trump said the boxes were among items that got moved out of the White House during “six hours” on Inauguration Day, as the Bidens prepared to move into the building.

“My father always kept press clippings,” Eric Trump said. “He had boxes, when he moved out of the White House.”

Trump made no mention of the search during a Monday evening tele-town hall on behalf of Leora Levy, the Connecticut Republican he has endorsed in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate primary.

But in a social media post Monday night, he called it a “weaponization of the Justice System, and an attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for President in 2024.”

Other Republicans echoed that message.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate, said on Twitter that it was “an escalation in the weaponization” of U.S. government agencies. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, said in a tweet that if Republicans win control of the U.S. House, they will investigate the Justice Department.

Trump took a different stance during the 2016 presidential campaign, frequently pointing to an FBI investigation into his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, over whether she mishandled classified information via a private email server she used as secretary of state. Then-FBI Director James Comey concluded that Clinton had sent and received classified information, but the FBI did not recommend criminal charges.

Trump lambasted that decision and then stepped up his criticism of the FBI as agents began investigating whether his campaign had colluded with Russia to tip the 2016 election. He fired Comey during that probe, and though he appointed Wray months later, he repeatedly criticized him, too, as president.

Thomas Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University history professor who studies and writes about the presidency, said there is no precedent for a former president facing an FBI raid — even going back to Watergate. President Richard Nixon wasn’t allowed to take tapes or other materials from the White House when he resigned in 1974, Schwartz noted, and many of his papers remained in Washington for years before being transferred to his presidential library in California.

The probe is hardly the only legal headache confronting Trump. A separate investigation related to efforts by him and his allies to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election — which led to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol — has also been intensifying in Washington. Several former White House officials have received grand jury subpoenas.

And a district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, is investigating whether Trump and his close associates sought to interfere in that state’s election, which was won by Democrat Joe Biden.

___

Associated Press writers Terry Spencer, Meg Kinnard, Michelle L. Price and Will Weissert contributed to this report.

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Business

Prairie premiers, governors urge Canada, U.S. to keep border crossings open longer

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Washington – Canada’s Prairie premiers and two U.S. governors want their respective countries to restore pre-pandemic operating hours at entry points along their shared land border.

The group of provincial and state leaders have written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden to argue that curtailed hours at border crossings are hurting the economy.

The letter is signed by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, as well as Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

It says travellers and businesses are being forced to go out of their way to find entry points with longer hours, driving up fuel and labour costs.

The leaders say that’s also hurting smaller border communities along the Canada-U.S. border that depend on international traffic for their economic livelihoods.

The letter does not mention that the U.S. still requires visiting foreign nationals to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a requirement Canada lifted over the weekend.

“Residents and businesses on both sides of the border have expressed concern that the reduced hours of operation will become permanent,” the letter reads.

It also argues that the supply chain problems that have persisted since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020 will only linger so long as cross-border trade and travel remains curtailed by limited hours at border crossings.

“Resuming pre-pandemic operating hours will ensure the efficient and steady flow of people and goods, which will only improve trade activity and reduce inflationary pressure on both sides of the border.”

A notice on the Canada Border Services Agency website warns of limited operating hours at nearly 40 land ports of entry, mostly in the Prairie provinces, along with Quebec, New Brunswick and B.C.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2022.

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Disaster

UN: 5.7 million Pakistani flood victims to face food crisis

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — The United Nations humanitarian agency is warning that about 5.7 million Pakistani flood survivors will face a serious food crisis in the next three months, as the death toll from the deluge rose on Monday.

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority reported that floods fueled by abnormally heavy monsoon rains have killed 1,695 people, affected 33 million, damaged more than 2 million homes and displaced hundreds of thousands now living in tents or makeshift homes.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in its latest report Saturday said the current floods are expected to exacerbate food insecurity in Pakistan and said 5.7 million people in flood-affected areas will be facing a food crisis between September and November.

Even before the floods, according to the World Health Organization, 16% of the population was living in moderate or severe food insecurity.

However, Pakistan’s government insists that there is no immediate worry about food supplies, as wheat stocks are enough to last through the next harvest and that the government is importing more.

The U.N. agency said in a tweet on Monday that the agency and other partners have scaled up their flood response and delivered aid to 1.6 million people directly affected by the deluges.

OCHA said outbreaks of waterborne and other diseases are on the rise in Sindh and southwestern Baluchistan provinces, where floods have caused the most damage since mid-June.

Several countries and U.N. agencies have sent more than 131 flights carrying aid for survivors, but many are complaining they have either received too little help or are still waiting for it.

The U.N. humanitarian agency also said in its Saturday report that rainfall in Baluchistan and Sindh lightened substantially over the past week, as temperatures start to decrease ahead of winter.

“Normal conditions are prevailing in most districts of Baluchistan, while in Sindh, the Indus River is flowing normally,” said OCHA. Overall, it added, in 18 out of 22 districts of Sindh, floodwater levels had receded at least 34%, and in some districts up to 78%.

The OCHA report also highlighted the ordeal of flood survivors, saying many continue to live in “unsanitary conditions in temporary shelters, often with limited access to basic services, compounding the risk of a major public health crisis.”

It said pregnant women are being treated in temporary camps when possible, and nearly 130,000 pregnant women need urgent health services.

“Already before the floods, Pakistan had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Asia, with the situation likely to deteriorate,” it said.

The U.N. is due to issue a revised appeal seeking an additional $800 million from the international community to respond to the soaring life-saving needs of Pakistani flood survivors. The U.N. said last week that “food is being delivered to vulnerable families; however, it is still not enough to meet the nutrition needs of the people.”

Pakistan says floods caused about $30 billion of damage to its economy.

Floods washed away thousands of kilometers of roads, destroyed 440 bridges, and disrupted railroad traffic.

Pakistan Railways said it has started restoring train service from Sindh to other cities after repairing some of the tracks damaged by floods.

Munir Ahmed, The Associated Press

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