U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, speaking at a Capitol news conference on Thursday, 7/29/21 (C-Span screen capture)
(*This story was updated at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 8/9/22, to include new reporting about U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District)
Republicans in Congress fumed Tuesday in reaction to former President Donald Trump’s Monday evening statement that the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, his home in Palm Beach, Florida.
Democrats had little to say Tuesday about the apparent search, though some defended the execution of justice regardless of a person’s political power. The massive publicity about the search competed with Democrats’ celebration as President Joe Biden at the White House signed into law major legislation aimed at improving semiconductor manufacturing.
A White House official said the White House had “no notice of the reported action” and deferred to the Justice Department for any further information.
Trump’s GOP allies questioned the prudence of the search, which the FBI and Department of Justice had not confirmed by Tuesday afternoon. Trump did not release a copy of a search warrant, although he would have been given one when a search began.
“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 said Monday in a statement.
The Justice Department did not respond to a request seeking comment. But news reports citing people familiar with the search indicated a federal judge would have authorized it in a warrant indicating probable cause that a crime had been committed, and that evidence would be found at the residence.
*On Tuesday, speaking exclusively to Fox News, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, said federal investigators seized his cell phone the day after executing the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago.
“This morning, while traveling with my family, [three] FBI agents visited me and seized my cell phone. They made no attempt to contact my lawyer, who would have made arrangements for them to have my phone if that was their wish,” Perry, a Trump ally, said in a statement released to Fox News.
“I’m outraged — though not surprised — that the FBI under the direction of Merrick Garland’s DOJ, would seize the phone of a sitting Member of Congress,” Perry said in his statement. “My phone contains info about my legislative and political activities, and personal/private discussions with my wife, family, constituents, and friends. None of this is the government’s business.”
He continued: “… as with President Trump last night, DOJ chose this unnecessary and aggressive action instead of simply contacting my attorneys. These kinds of banana republic tactics should concern every Citizen — especially considering the decision before Congress this week to hire 87,000 new IRS agents to further persecute law-abiding Citizens.”
Calls for Garland impeachment
Trump and Republican officials aligned with him speculated that the action was an act of political persecution targeting Biden’s rival in the 2020 — and possibly 2024 — election, with some going as far as calling for Attorney General Merrick Garland to be impeached over the matter.
“The raid by Joe Biden’s FBI on the home of a former president who is also Biden’s chief political opponent is an unprecedented assault on democratic norms and the rule of law. Biden has taken our republic into dangerous waters,” U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted.
“At a minimum, Garland must resign or be impeached,” the Missouri Republican added. “The search warrant must be published. [FBI Director Christopher] Wray must be removed. And the FBI reformed top to bottom.”
Hawley has closely associated himself with the former president’s debunked claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him and raised his fist in the air in a sign of solidarity with pro-Trump demonstrators hours before they charged the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
But even U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, a Michigan Republican who voted to impeach the former president in 2021 and lost his primary last week to a Trump-backed challenger, called for answers from the Justice Department.
“Last night’s execution of an FBI search warrant at Mar-a-Lago raises grave questions of propriety and politicization,” Meijer said in a tweet. “Allegations of criminal activity from current/ex-Presidents require FBI & DOJ handling that is beyond reproach. Anything less is dangerous and wrong.”
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California pledged to investigate the investigation if Republicans gain control of the chamber in November’s elections.
“The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization,” McCarthy said. “When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department… Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”
U.S. Sen Rick Scott, a former Florida governor who leads Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, also called for a rigorous investigation and possible impeachment of Garland.
If Garland and Wray did not make public statements explaining the raid Tuesday, they “no longer deserve to remain in office,” he said in a statement.
“When Republicans retake the majority in the Senate, there will be a thorough and aggressive investigation,” he said. “Everything needs to be on the table for AG Garland, including impeachment.”
Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, noted the search was the first of a former president in U.S. history that fueled concerns about the FBI’s political motivations.
“The appearance of continued partisanship by the Justice Department must be addressed,” Pence tweeted 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.”
Pennsylvania Republicans loyal to the former president also weighed in on the search.
Taking to Twitter, U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-14th District, called it “overtly political,” and warned Democrats that “this fall, they’re in for a rude awakening.”
One-party rule in Washington emboldened the left and its allies. The FBI's overtly political raid is merely the latest example.
This Fall, they're in for a rude awakening.
— Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (@GReschenthaler) August 9, 2022
Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Trump ally who is the Republican nominee for governor, called the search “an unprecedented assault on the fundamental norms of the American legal system and represents an outrageous weaponization of America’s tools of justice against political opponents of the current regime in Washington, DC.
“At the same time, this assault should serve as an urgent call to all freedom-loving patriots to exercise their votes and throw the bums out – Democrats in Washington and Harrisburg – who are behind the destruction of our freedoms,” Mastriano said in a statement.
Trump is under investigation by a Georgia grand jury for his possible role in attempting to overturn the election. The House committee investigating Jan. 6 has also focused its investigation on Trump’s conduct, and the panel is reported to be considering a criminal referral to the Justice Department.
But there is no indication the Monday search was part of investigations of Trump’s election-related conduct.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speculated it had to do with records from Trump’s time in office. The U.S. archivist reported in a February 2022 letter that Trump had kept 15 boxes of presidential records — including classified documents — at his Palm Beach residence.
Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in a Today Show interview Tuesday morning that she had no advance knowledge of the search and would reserve judgment until DOJ officials said more.
“I’m sure that information will be revealed and when it does, we’ll find out what they were looking for,” she told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie.
“It seems to have something to do with presidential documents, but I really am not in a position to talk about it because all I know is what’s in the public domain.”
Trump should be subject to the same criminal investigation as any other citizen, Pelosi added, and his past office shouldn’t provide him immunity from prosecution.
“We believe in the rule of law,” she said. “No person is above the law.”
“Yesterday’s search of Mar-A-Lago reinforced a fundamental pillar of American democracy — no one is above the law, not even the former president of the United States,” said U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat from Florida who is running for governor.
A spokesman for the House Jan. 6 committee — led by Mississippi Democrat Bennie G. Thompson — declined to comment Tuesday, as did a spokeswoman for Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat.
Representatives for the House Judiciary Committee did not return a message Tuesday.
Capital-Star Editor John L. Micek contributed additional reporting.
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