Donald Trump is probably the target of a criminal investigation and the raid on his Mar-a-Lago mansion shows it, a former acting US Solicitor General has said.
Neal Katyal, who was appointed by Barack Obama to represent the government in front of the Supreme Court between 2010 and 2011, told MSNBC on Monday night that if he were Trump’s lawyer, he would be telling him to ‘prepare for jail time’.
It comes after FBI agents earlier searched Trump’s Florida mansion – including his private safe – with journalists briefed that they were looking for protected documents Trump is accused of illegally taking after his presidential term ended.
Trump blasted the raid as a ‘dark day’ for America while lawyer Alan Dershowitz – a long-time associate of Trump via the Mar-a-Lago club and who represented him during his first impeachment – called the raid ‘totally unjustified’ and ‘wrong’.
Neal Katyal, the former acting Solicitor General, has said the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago shows Trump is probably the subject of a criminal investigation
The Justice Department is known to be conducting a criminal investigation into the January 6 attack on the Capitol, but has repeatedly refused to say whether it is looking into Trump
The FBI and Justice Department have refused to say anything about the raid – including why it was carried out, what agents were looking for, or whether they found anything.
It comes amid a Justice Department probe into the January 6 attack on the Capitol, with prosecutors said to be questioning witnesses specifically about Trump’s actions in the led-up to that day.
Katyal, who describes himself as an ‘extremist centrist’ and is a law professor at Georgetown University, told MSNBC: ‘I think [the raid] makes it likely that the former president is the target of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.’
Laying out the legal groundwork that the FBI would have needed to satisfy to get a warrant for the search, he added: ‘They have convinced a federal judge that there is probable cause that a crime has been committed.
‘[The judge is convinced] that there are documents in [his] house that are related to that crime, and that an ordinary request like a subpoena or something like that isn’t going to be enough.’
He concluded: ‘If I were Donald Trump’s lawyer right now, and thank God that I’m not, I would be advising my client to be telling my family that I am expecting jail time and should be planning accordingly.’
Separately, former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told DailyMail.com that – if Trump is found guilty of mishandling the documents – he could be barred from holding public office even as he prepares to run in 2024.
He said Trump would likely be charged under US Code Title 18, Section 2071 which involves concealment or destruction of US government documents.
The code states that anyone who ‘willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys, or attempts to do so, or, with intent to do so takes and carries away any record’ could be fined and sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison.’
The provision also states that anyone convicted of records concealment or destruction ‘shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.’
FBI agents are said to have begun an hours-long search of Mar-a-Lago on Monday morning before Trump confirmed the raid later in the day (Secret Service agents at the mansion)
Trump supporters gathered outside Trump’s Florida home after the raid, as son Eric alleged it was part of a plot to stop his father running for election in 2024
Mr Rahmani added: ‘His lawyers told him about the law requiring that he preserve White House documents, so he was on notice and that will bolster the case and help prove intent if prosecutors charge Trump.’
Trump’s lawyers have already handed over 15 boxes of documents that were supposed to be given to the National Archive when he left office but ended up at Mar-a-Lago instead.
At the time of the transfer, back in January, they brushed it off as a mistake – saying the White House was packed up in a ‘hurry’ because Trump was busy contesting the result of the election and didn’t want to clear out sooner.
The National Archive later confirmed that some of the documents Trump handed back were classified, and said his legal team were still ‘searching’ for more records.
The ex-President hit back, telling reporters in February: ‘The National Archives did not ”find” anything.
‘They were given, upon request, Presidential Records in an ordinary and routine process. If this was anyone but ”Trump,” there would be no story here,’ he said.
‘Instead, Democrats are in search of their next scam.’
Trump and his legal team were not made aware of Monday’s raid ahead of time, with son Eric revealing he was the one who got the call about it and passed the information on to his dad – who was in New York at the time.
Secret Service agents protecting the house are thought to have been given an hour’s notice before the warrant was served around 10am local time, and then helped the FBI carry out the search.
Agents spent several hours searching the property and are said to have left with ‘several boxes’ some time in the early afternoon.
News of the raid did not break until several hours later when Trump confirmed it himself, saying his ‘beautiful home’ had been placed under ‘siege’ by the FBI in what he called a ‘dark day’ for America.
Neither the FBI or Justice Department have said what the raid on Mar-a-Lago (file image) was about, what they were looking for, or whether anything was found
Eric said the raid had been orchestrated by the Biden White House in an attempt to discredit Trump ahead of the 2024 election, but a spokesman for the administration denied having any prior knowledge of it.
Investigations into the records are just one of a number of probes that Trump is facing over his time as president, his refusal to concede the 2020 race to Biden, and the January 6 storming of the Capitol Building by supporters convinced the election had been stolen.
The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into the events of January 6, has charged hundreds of people with breaching the Capitol that day, and is said to be probing Trump’s involvement in it.
Lawyers interviewing witnesses before a grand jury last month are said to have asked questions about Trump’s actions between December 2020 and January 2021.
However, Attorney General Merrick Garland has repeatedly refused to confirm or deny looking into Trump when questioned about the probe.
Prosecutors are said to have focused on meetings between those dates, attempts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results, and what instructions he gave to lawyers and advisers about placing ‘fake’ electors in states Biden won.
Meanwhile the House Select Committee in Congress is conducting a series of hearings into the lead-up to January 6, and is interviewing high-ranking members of the Trump administration about attempts to overturn the election result.
Mike Pompeo, Trump’s former Secretary of State and an ally while in office, is due to speak this week alongside Douglas Mastriano, Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor who helped lead efforts to challenge that state’s election result.
The state of Georgia is also conducting a separate grand jury investigation into Trump’s efforts to challenge the election outcome there, while two separate investigations in New York are looking into Trump’s finances.