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What did the FBI need to obtain a search warrant for Donald Trump’s home?

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home has been raided by the FBI. What authority does the organisation have and how do they gain it?

People and police officers stand outside Trump Tower after former US President Donald Trump said that FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach home.

Another political bombshell dropped last night as former president Donald Trump’s Florida retreat was raided by the FBI. Occuring at 6pm eastern time, it is supposedly related to an investigation into Trump taking classified documents from the White House to his estate when he left office.

“These are dark times for our nation,” Trump’s statement said. “Nothing like this has ever happened to a president of the United States before.”

So far, neither the FBI nor the Justice Department have commented upon proceedings. How can the FBI gain access to private buildings?

Why are search warrants necessary?

Search warrants are used when federal authorities are moving on a criminal investigation, especially if there is a belief that the evidence could be lost or destroyed in the future.

According to the Justice Manual, the department’s official guidebook on criminal procedure, search warrants are used only when “it appears that the use of a subpoena, summons, request, or other less intrusive alternative means of obtaining the materials would substantially jeopardize the availability or usefulness of the materials sought.”

What this means is that if more obvious methods of gaining evidence are, used then there is a risk it may not be obtained at all. This necessitates the use of a search warrant.

The background

Search warrants cannot be conducted unilaterally by the FBI and must be coordinated with the Justice Department. A judge must decide whether the search is proportionate, what limitations on evidence can be gathered, and how the search factors in Fourth Amendment rights. This constitutional amendment protects the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Probable cause is another important aspect of a search warrant. There already needs to be existing evidence that the search will find evidence of illegality.

In the context of this investigation, a federal magistrate judge in West Palm Beach sanctioned the search warrant as it was ascertianed that the records could be in the property, according to The Guardian. The presence of these classified records in Mar-a-Lago is a potential crime.


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