Former president Donald Trump, a central figure in no fewer than three separate criminal probes involving state and federal grand juries, lashed out at the federal law enforcement agencies currently investigating whether he violated federal laws prohibiting unauthorised possession of national defence information and obstruction of justice during a hours-long speech at one of his signature political rallies on Saturday.
Mr Trump was roughly ten minutes into remarks at a “Save America” rally purportedly meant to boost the campaigns of GOP Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano when he began to air a series of grievances about the 8 August search of his Palm Beach, Florida home by FBI agents.
He accused the Biden administration of “weaponising the FBI and justice department like never ever before” and described the court-authorised search of his property as the FBI “breaking into the homes of their political opponents”.
“There could be no more vivid example of the very real threats from American freedom than just a few weeks ago … when we witnessed one of the most shocking abuses of power by any administration in American history,” he said.
Mr Trump condemned the lawful search of his property as “shameful” and “a travesty of justice” and complained that agents had combed through the room belonging to his 16-year-old son, Barron Trump, while looking for evidence of crimes.
The man who not two years ago had his picture on the wall at every office of the nation’s federal law enforcement agencies accused the FBI of “trying to destroy our country”on behalf of Democrats by investigating whether he committed any number of serious federal crimes.
“Whether through activist attorney generals … local Democrat DAs, county prosecutors, congressional committees or federal agencies, the radical Democrats are engaging in a desperate attempt to keep me from returning to the White House,” Mr Trump said, casting the investigations into whether he violated federal laws meant to protect the nation’s national defence secrets or state laws against election tampering as illegitimate and nakedly political.
According to court documents, FBI agents found over 10,000 stolen non-classified government documents spread across 27 boxes when they searched the twice-impeached ex-president’s home and office at his Mar-a-Lago country club.
Agents also discovered more than 100 “unique documents with classification markings”, including three stored in Mr Trump’s desk. Classification levels ranged from confidential – the lowest level of classification in the US system – to the highest, top secret.
The ex-president’s hoard of stolen government property also included folders with markings indicating that they had contained classified or sensitive documents that were meant to be returned to the White House staff secretary, a key White House aide who manages the flow of paper to and from the president’s desk.
Of the 90 empty folders recovered by agents, 47 of them had these markings, while the remainder were meant to be returned to the White House staff secretary’s office or the president’s military aide.
Prosecutors have also said in court filings that Mr Trump’s attorneys allegedly lied to FBI agents when they told them the ex-president had returned all classified documents in his possession during a 3 June meeting. A redacted version of the affidavit used to obtain the warrant to search his property also revealed that the government has evidence that Mr Trump or his associates attempted to conceal more classified documents from the government following that meeting.
According to legal experts, the evidence against the former president could be enough for a grand jury to return an indictment against him for multiple violations of federal law punished by decades in federal prison.
But Mr Trump told the crowd of supporters who’d gathered to see him in Pittsburgh that the myriad grievances he aired about the criminal investigation into his conduct was “not about him”.
Instead, he described it as “a struggle for the fate of our republic” that pits his “Make America Great Again” movement against “a corrupt group of unelected tyrants”.
“They think the deep state, not the citizens should be the true masters of this country,” said Mr Trump, who promised to “clean house” and “restore government for the people” if he is returned to power. He added that the United States “would be destroyed” if he is not permitted to regain the powers of the presidency.
The ex-president continued his remarks by rehashing a series of years-old complaints about previous investigations into him and lashed out at the FBI and Department of Justice for failing to put his political enemies in prison.
Though the current criminal investigation into him stems directly from his alleged theft and unlawful retention of records which are by law property of the US government — and his unauthorised possession of numerous documents marked as classified at the highest levels, Mr Trump castigated federal law enforcement for not bringing charges against his 2016 election opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ms Clinton was the subject of a years-long probe stemming from her use of a personal email server while at the State Department. Mr Trump said the FBI’s finding that some of Ms Clinton’s emails had been retroactively determined to contain classified information as far worse than his possession of hundreds of classified documents, leading the boisterous crowd to erupt in a chant of “lock her up”.
He also complained about the FBI’s failure to publicise an investigation into Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and for advising social media outlets that information from a laptop which his allies said belong to the younger Mr Biden might be contaminated with foreign disinformation just before the 2020 election, calling the move “corruption and election interference on a scale that we have never seen before in our country”.
“These same exact people at Justice and the FBI … along with outside scum are at it again with the horrific raid of my home,” he said. “They just go on and on and they have to be stopped”.