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Biden was involved in raid against Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, despite denials

By Sarah May
|
April 12, 2023

Despite White House claims that officials learned of last summer's FBI raid of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home through news reports, conservative advocacy group America First Legal (AFL) says it has obtained internal federal government documents that suggest otherwise, as Fox News reports.

The watchdog organization secured the relevant materials through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) inspector general and announced initial revelations on Monday, with follow-up inquires to the government set to follow.

White House involvement alleged

AFL issued a statement detailing its findings related to the Aug. 8, 2022 search of Trump's Florida residence, which it characterized as “unprecedented” and the product of intervention from the Biden White House.

The search, as the group notes, was predicated on the notion that there was a possibility that classified records were improperly being kept on the premises, but, according to AFL, unreported at the time was the fact that the FBI's involvement in the matter was in fact triggered by a so-called “special access request” made by the administration on behalf of the Justice Department.

According to AFL, the statute that outlines the process for making a “special access request” permits an incumbent president to pursue records in such a manner “only when the records in question are needed for 'the conduct of current business' of the White House.”

AFL further asserts that “[p]roviding documents to the DOJ for purposes of a criminal investigation is not the 'current business' of the White House.”

Emails tell the tale?

In its Monday release, AFL highlights email messages from NARA officials regarding the search of Trump's home, which the group believes point to the role of the White House in the raid that took place.

Of particular interest, according to AFL, is an Aug. 23 email message from NARA General Counsel Gary Stern to other agency staffers, which read, “And this evening, the [Washington] Post just published a new story detailing an April 12 email that I sent to the Trump reps concerning the DOJ special access requests and the overall issue.”

That message included a quote from the Post piece saying, “On April 12, an Archives official emailed [Patrick] Philbin and John Eisenberg, another deputy White House counsel, to tell them the Justice Department, via the Biden White House, had made the request.”

This, suggests AFL, “suggests the Biden White House and the Justice Department coordinated to obtain the Trump records through the 'special access' request.”

Contradictions abound

The claims made by AFL as a result of its FOIA inquiry stand in stark contrast to representations made by the Biden White House in the immediate aftermath of the raid at Trump's home.

As Fox News noted at the time, when asked specifically whether Biden played any role in advance of the search, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed that officials became aware of what occurred through news reporting, “just like the American people did.”

Jean-Pierre was further asked if the president or other White House figures had knowledge of the raid or had received briefings on the matter, she answered in the negative. “No. The president was not briefed, and he was not aware. No, no one at the White House was given a heads-up. No, that did not happen,” Jean-Pierre insisted.

Also troubling, according to AFL, are representations that were made to Congress by Acting Archivist Debra Wall, who told Republican Rep. Mike Turner (OH-10) that NARA “had not been involved” in the DOJ's probe or any searches it has initiated, statements the group believes suggest the agency's intent to mislead lawmakers about White House involvement in the raid.

“No limits”

As a result of the initial findings elicited by its FOIA request, AFL has filed additional requests for documents from NARA related to the “special access request” made by the Biden White House.

Reacting to what has been revealed thus far was Reed Rubenstein, AFL's senior counselor and director of oversight and investigations, who said, “The evidence suggests that the ostensibly nonpartisan National Archives and Records administration misled Congress about the Biden White House's responsibility for the FBI's raid of former President Trump's home.”

“The evidence further suggests that Biden officials in the Executive Office of the President and the Department of Justice unlawfully abused their power and then lied about it to the American people,” Rubenstein continued.

“The government, it seems, acknowledges no limits on its power to harass, intimidate, and silence its political opponents, Rubenstein concluded, and it remains to be seen whether AFL's probe will reveal further links between the Biden White House and the Mar-a-Lago raid of which it previously claimed ignorance.