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An Informer Told the FBI What Docs Trump Was Hiding, and Where

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The raid on Mar-a-Lago was based largely on information from an FBI confidential human source, one who was able to identify what classified documents former President Trump was still hiding and even the location of those documents, two senior government officials told Newsweek.

The officials, who have direct knowledge of the FBI's deliberations and were granted anonymity in order to discuss sensitive matters, said the raid of Donald Trump's Florida residence was deliberately timed to occur when the former president was away.

FBI decision-makers in Washington and Miami thought that denying the former president a photo opportunity or a platform from which to grandstand (or to attempt to thwart the raid) would lower the profile of the event, says one of the sources, a senior Justice Department official who is a 30-year veteran of the FBI.

The effort to keep the raid low-key failed: instead, it prompted a furious response from GOP leaders and Trump supporters. "What a spectacular backfire," says the Justice official.

"I know that there is much speculation out there that this is political persecution, but it is really the best and the worst of the bureaucracy in action," the official says. "They wanted to punctuate the fact that this was a routine law enforcement action, stripped of any political overtones, and yet [they] got exactly the opposite."

Both senior government officials say the raid was scheduled with no political motive, the FBI solely intent on recovering highly classified documents that were illegally removed from the White House.Preparations to conduct such an operation began weeks ago, but in planning the date and time, the FBI Miami Field Office and Washington headquarters were focused on the former president's scheduled return to Florida from his residences in New York and New Jersey.

"They were seeking to avoid any media circus," says the second source, a senior intelligence official who was briefed on the investigation and the operation. "So even though everything made sense bureaucratically and the FBI feared that the documents might be destroyed, they also created the very firestorm they sought to avoid, in ignoring the fallout."

On Monday at about 6 p.m. EST, two dozen FBI agents and technicians showed up at Donald Trump's Florida home to execute a search warrant to obtain any government-owned documents that might be in the possession of Trump but are required to be delivered to the Archives under the provisions of the 1978 Presidential Records Act. (In response to the Hillary Clinton email scandal, Trump himself signed a law in 2018 that made it a felony to remove and retain classified documents.)

The act establishes that presidential records are the property of the U.S. government and not a president's private property. Put in place after Watergate to avoid the abuses of the Nixon administration, the law imposes strict penalties for failure to comply. "Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined" $2,000, up to three years in prison or "shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States."

The act, and concerns about the illegal possession of classified "national defense information" are the bases for the search warrant, according to the two sources. The raid had nothing to do with the January 6 investigation or any other alleged wrongdoing by the former president.

The road to the raid began a year-and-a-half ago, when in the transition from the Trump administration to that of President Joe Biden, there were immediate questions raised by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) as to whether the presidential records turned over to the federal agency for historical preservation were complete or not.

In February, Archivist David Ferriero testified before Congress that his agency began talking with Trump's people right after they left office and that the Trump camp had already returned 15 boxes of documents to the Archives. Ferriero said that in those materials, the Archives discovered items "marked as classified national security information," unleashing further inquiries as to whether Trump continued to possess classified material.

The basic outlines of the facts surrounding this timeline have been confirmed by the former president. He has previously said that he was returning any official records to the Archives, labeling any confusion in the matter as "an ordinary and routine process to ensure the preservation of my legacy and in accordance with the Presidential Records Act." He also claimed the Archives "did not 'find' anything" in what he had already been returned, suggesting that there was nothing sensitive. He said the documents had inadvertently shipped to Florida during the six-hour transition period in which his belongings were moved.

According to the Justice Department source, the Archives saw things differently, believing that the former White House was stonewalling and continued to possess unauthorized material. Earlier this year, they asked the Justice Department to investigate.

In late April, the source says, a federal grand jury began deliberating whether there was a violation of the Presidential Records Act or whether President Trump unlawfully possessed national security information. Through the grand jury process, the National Archives provided federal prosecutors with copies of the documents received from former President Trump in January 2022. The grand jury concluded that there had been a violation of the law, according to the Justice Department source.

In the past week, the prosecutor in the case and local Assistant U.S. Attorney went to Florida magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart in West Palm Beach to seek approval for the search of Donald Trump's private residence. The affidavit to obtain the search warrant, the intelligence source says, contained abundant and persuasive detail that Trump continued to possess the relevant records in violation of federal law, and that investigators had sufficient information to prove that those records were located at Mar-a-Lago—including the detail that they were contained in a specific safe in a specific room.

"In order for the investigators to convince the Florida judge to approve such an unprecedented raid, the information had to be solid, which the FBI claimed," says the intelligence source.

According to experts familiar with FBI practices, Judge Reinhart reviewed the prosecutor's evidence and asked numerous questions about the sources and the urgency. The judge signed a search warrant allowing the FBI to look for relevant material and the FBI then planned the operation, wanting to conduct the raid while Trump was spending time at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. A Secret Service source who spoke on background said the Secret Service director was given advance warning and was later told the specifics of the raid.

Because the Secret Service is still responsible for protecting the former president, his family, and his property, the FBI had to coordinate with the Secret Service to gain access to the grounds.

A convoy of unmarked black SUVs and a Ryder rental truck filled with about three dozen FBI special agents and technicians entered the gates in the early evening. Heavily armed Secret Service agents were also visibly present at the gates. The Palm Beach Police Department was also present at the scene.

The entire operation was conducted relatively stealthily. No FBI people were seen in their iconic blue windbreakers announcing the presence of the Bureau. And though local law enforcement was present, the Palm Beach Police Department was careful to tweet on Tuesday that it "was not aware of the existence of a search warrant nor did our department assist the FBI in the execution of a search warrant."

According to news media reports, some 10-15 boxes of documents were removed from the premises. Donald Trump said in a statement that the FBI opened his personal safe as part of their search. Trump attorney Lindsey Halligan, who was present during the multi-hour search, says that the FBI targeted three rooms—a bedroom, an office and a storage room. That suggests that the FBI knew specifically where to look.

"This unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate," former President Trump said in a statement. He called the raid "prosecutorial misconduct, the weaponization of the Justice System, and an attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don't want me to run for President in 2024."

Though Trump and his Republican Party allies are portraying the raid as politically motivated, it is likely the unprecedented nature of the raid on the property of a former president that will have the greatest reverberation. Even Trump's political rivals have rallied in condemning the FBI.

Former Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that "no former President of the United States has ever been subject to a raid of their personal residence in American history." Mike Pompeo, Trump's Secretary of State and CIA director, tweeted that Attorney General Merrick Garland "must explain why 250 yrs of practice was upended w/ this raid. I served on Benghazi Com[mittee] where we proved Hillary possessed classified info. We didn't raid her home."

The Biden White House says the president was not briefed about the Mar-a-Lago raid and knew nothing about it in advance. "The Justice Department conducts investigations independently and we leave any law enforcement matters to them," Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday afternoon. "It would not be appropriate for us to comment on any ongoing investigations."

The senior Justice Department source says that Garland was regularly briefed on the Records Act investigation, and that he knew about the grand jury and what material federal prosecutors were seeking. He insists, though, that Garland had no prior knowledge of the date and time of the specific raid, nor was he asked to approve it. "I know it's hard for people to believe," says the official, "but this was a matter for the U.S. Attorney and the FBI."

FBI director Christopher Wray ultimately gave his go-ahead to conduct the raid, the senior Justice official says. "It really is a case of the Bureau misreading the impact."

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# Reviewing Intelligence and the State

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House begins with a primer on the intelligence community and the process of turning raw information into usable intelligence to set the stage for the discussion of the interface between consumers and producers of intelligence. Although this may be redundant for readers with experience in the intelligence community, it is a very clear explanation that would be useful to students and those readers whose ideas about intelligence were formed primarily by popular media. Chapter 2 concisely explains the various sources of intelligence—SIGINT, HUMINT, etc—as well as the terminology used in assessments to indicate the level of confidence analysts have in a particular piece of information. This gets to a critical issue that House explores further in the following chapters: the inherent mismatch between what policy makers often desire and what intelligence analysts can provide. As House notes, “analysis is not simply ‘establishing the facts’ or ‘connecting the dots,’ since in many instances some of those facts or dots are unknown or unknowable.”[1] Despite this, policy makers often desire a level of certainty that cannot be provided and become frustrated with the language used by analysts to maintain objectivity. This can result in situations where, “some decision makers regard qualifying adverbs-including ‘apparently,’ ‘probably,’ and ‘presumably’- as being an effort not to report accurately but rather to avoid responsibility for being wrong.”[2]

Intelligence assessments are usually phrased in terms of relative probabilities, which gives policy makers an ability to choose the assessment that comports most closely with their preferred outcome.

Intelligence analysts may have detailed knowledge, but they must also confront the biases inherent in policy makers whom they serve. Intelligence products are rarely definitive, and there are likely different pieces of information that can support conclusions that confirm policy makers' desired course of action, even if the analysts’ assessment points in a different, even opposite, direction. Intelligence assessments are usually phrased in terms of relative probabilities, which gives policy makers an ability to choose the assessment that comports most closely with their preferred outcome. This is a long-standing problem in the relationship between analysts and policy makers, but it takes on additional importance as increasingly large amounts of raw information are available to anyone through internet search engines. As House notes, “search algorithms frequently identify the most often cited sources, but ‘most often cited’ is not the same as ‘most accurate.’ The subconscious belief that a Google search can correctly answer any question constitutes yet another barrier to communication between decision makers and analysts.”[3]

Chapter 3 gets to the heart of the matter and here the author’s personal experience and expertise shows most clearly. A fairly detailed assessment of the relationship between the intelligence analysis and policy makers in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq War is particularly illustrative of the issues raised by the author in the first two chapters. Rather than accept the assessment of intelligence analysts, policy makers continually pushed intelligence analysts to go back to find the evidence needed to support the preferred policy. The lead up to the 2003 Iraq War also demonstrates another significant point to which House gives particular attention: the role of intelligence community managers. The policy makers’ expectation of constant briefings by high-level intelligence community managers means that managers spend much more time on the briefing process than running their departments compared to similarly placed officials in other bureaucracies.

A closely related point raised by House is highly salient: the importance of the right personnel in the key management positions in the intelligence community. High level IC officials must understand the intelligence process and have the confidence of the policy making officials. Yet, those same officials must also not be so close to an administration that they become wrapped up in their policy preferences and offer a level of confidence in intelligence assessments that is potentially misleading. As House states, “Intelligence exists to serve policy decisions, but that does not mean the analytical products should bend to the preferences of policy.”[4] Still, in the inherent dynamic between policy maker superiors and intelligence analyst subordinates, there is always a danger that this can happen with potentially disastrous results.

House devotes a considerable amount of attention to the development of intelligence services in Europe and in the U.S. in chapters 4 and 5. It is an interesting history that makes an important point: most European intelligence services developed before the U.S. did so, and mostly for domestic security reasons. The foreign intelligence component was built in because of international connections to domestic threats to the regimes. But while interesting, there is little connection made to the main themes of the book. The same largely goes for the historical section on the US. It is a useful historical overview, but much of it is not directly relevant to the core ideas of the volume. As a result, the volume often seems disjointed, covering a range of topics without linking them together in a completely coherent manner.

The Paradox of Warning: If the intelligence community gets it right and effective action is taken by policy makers, then the predicted event never occurs, and “…the intelligence officer/agency becomes the boy who cried wolf.

House also focuses on the unwelcome surprises that have confronted the intelligence community. From Pearl Harbor through the September 11th terrorist attacks, there is an unfortunately lengthy list of major strikes against the United States that slipped through the web of the intelligence community. House dives into a number of American cases such as Pearl Harbor, the Chinese intervention in the Korean war, and the Cuban missile crisis, as well as notable cases of warning failure in states as divergent as Nazi Germany and modern Israel. We should be careful to avoid characterizing all surprise as forms of intelligence failure, because as the author stresses, our understanding of surprise is based entirely on the things that slip through the net. Chapter 7 is titled, “The Paradox of Warning” for this exact reason. If the intelligence community gets it right and effective action is taken by policy makers, then the predicted event never occurs, and “…the intelligence officer/agency becomes the boy who cried wolf. The very fact that the intelligence system succeeds causes it to look like a failure.”[5]

Despite the author’s extensive treatment of the key issues at hand, there are also some oddly short-changed sections. Politicization of intelligence is tacked on to a chapter on the more modern history of the US intelligence community, but it seems to be an afterthought. Given the alarming intrusion of partisan politics in the intelligence process documented by both the Robert Mueller and John Durham investigations into Russian interference in American elections, it seems to be a topic that would merit more than a page in a work of this nature. Likewise, there is a section on cognitive biases that is helpful but somewhat incomplete given how important these are to the problems addressed in the book. A bit more detail here and more reference to the voluminous literature on the subject would be welcome. Cognitive biases are well known, and the human mind is highly likely to attach more significance to information that confirms a desired course of action and discount information than disconfirms it. House mentions that analysts are trained to minimize the cognitive biases that often distort decision making, but does not go further on this. It would be an interesting point to bring out because there is a possibility that some of that training could be generalized to a broader policy community.

On the whole, however, the flaws in House’s book are minor compared to the value it offers. Intelligence and the State would be a welcome addition to any course on intelligence at an undergraduate or graduate level, as it provides both historical depth and contemporary relevance in a compact format. It will also hopefully be read by policy makers and intelligence professionals seeking to avoid some of the errors of their predecessors.

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FBI's search of Trump's Florida estate: Why now?

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI’s unprecedented search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence ricocheted around government, politics and a polarized country Tuesday along with questions as to why the Justice Department — notably cautious under Attorney General Merrick Garland — decided to take such a drastic step.

Answers weren’t quickly forthcoming.

Agents on Monday searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, which is also a private club, as part of a federal investigation into whether the former president took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence, people familiar with the matter said. It marked a dramatic escalation of law enforcement scrutiny of Trump, who faces an array of inquiries tied to his conduct in the waning days of his administration.

From echoes of Watergate to the more immediate House probe of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, Washington, a city used to sleepy Augusts, reeled from one speculative or accusatory headline to the next. Was the Justice Department politicized? What prompted it to seek authorization to search the estate for classified documents now, months after it was revealed that Trump had taken boxes of materials with him when he left the White House after losing the 2020 election?

Garland has not tipped his hand despite an outcry from some Democrats impatient over whether the department was even pursuing evidence that has surfaced in the Jan. 6 probe and other investigations— and from Republicans who were swift to echo Trump’s claims that he was the victim of political prosecution.

All Garland has said publicly is that “no one is above the law.”

A federal judge had to sign off on the warrant after establishing that FBI agents had shown probable cause before they could descend on Trump’s shuttered-for-the-season home — he was in New York, a thousand or so miles away, at the time of the search.

Monday’s search intensified the months-long probe into how classified documents ended up in boxes of White House records located at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year. A separate grand jury is investigating efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, and it all adds to potential legal peril for Trump as he lays the groundwork for a potential repeat run for the White House.

Trump and his allies quickly sought to cast the search as a weaponization of the criminal justice system and a Democratic-driven effort to keep him from winning another term in 2024 — though the Biden White House said it had no prior knowledge and current FBI Director Christopher Wray was appointed by Trump five years ago.

Trump, disclosing the search in a lengthy statement late Monday, asserted that agents had opened a safe at his home, and he described their work as an “unannounced raid” that he likened to “prosecutorial misconduct.”

Justice Department spokesperson Dena Iverson declined to comment on the search, including whether Garland had personally authorized it. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the West Wing first learned of the search from public media reports and the White House had not been briefed in the run-up or aftermath.

“The Justice Department conducts investigations independently and we leave any law enforcement matters to them,” she said. “We are not involved.”

About two dozen Trump supporters stood in protest at midmorning Tuesday in the Florida summer heat and sporadic light rain on a bridge near the former president’s residence. One held a sign reading “Democrats are Fascists” while others carried flags saying “2020 Was Rigged,” “Trump 2024” and Biden’s name with an obscenity. Some cars honked in support as they passed.

Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence, a potential 2024 rival, 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.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell echoed Pence, saying, “Attorney General Garland and the Department of Justice should already have provided answers to the American people and must do so immediately.”

“The FBI director was appointed by Donald Trump,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., when asked about GOP allegations that the raid showed the politicization of the Justice Department. She added, “Facts and truth, facts and law, that’s what it’s about.”

Trump was meeting late Tuesday at his Bedminster, New Jersey, club with members of the Republican Study Committee, a group headed by Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana that says it is committed to putting forth his priorities in Congress.

The FBI reached out to the Secret Service shortly before serving a warrant, a third person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. Secret Service agents contacted the Justice Department and were able to validate the warrant before facilitating access to the estate, the person said.

The Justice Department has been investigating the potential mishandling of classified information since the National Archives and Records Administration said it had received from Mar-a-Lago 15 boxes of White House records, including documents containing classified information, earlier this year. The National Archives said Trump should have turned over that material upon leaving office, and it asked the Justice Department to investigate.

Christina Bobb, a lawyer for Trump, said in an interview that aired on Real America’s Voice on Tuesday that investigators said they were “looking for classified information that they think should not have been removed from the White House, as well as presidential records.”

There are multiple federal laws governing the handling of classified records and sensitive government documents, including statutes that make it a crime to remove such material and retain it at an unauthorized location. Though a search warrant does not necessarily mean criminal charges are near or even expected, federal officials looking to obtain one must first demonstrate to a judge that they have probable cause that a crime occurred.

Two people familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the search Monday was related to the records probe. Agents were also looking to see if Trump had additional presidential records or any classified documents at the estate.

Trump has previously maintained that presidential records were turned over “in an ordinary and routine process.” His son Eric said on Fox News on Monday night that he had spent the day with his father and that the search happened because “the National Archives wanted to corroborate whether or not Donald Trump had any documents in his possession.”

Trump himself, in a social media post Monday night, called the search a “weaponization of the Justice System, and an attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for President in 2024.”

Trump took a different stance during the 2016 presidential campaign, frequently pointing to an FBI investigation into his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, over whether she mishandled classified information via a private email server she used as secretary of state. Then-FBI Director James Comey concluded that Clinton had sent and received classified information, but the FBI did not recommend criminal charges.

Trump lambasted that decision and then stepped up his criticism of the FBI as agents began investigating whether his campaign had colluded with Russia to tip the 2016 election. He fired Comey during that probe, and though he appointed Wray months later, he repeatedly criticized him, too, as president.

The probe is hardly the only legal headache confronting Trump. A separate investigation related to efforts by him and his allies to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election — which led to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol — has also been intensifying in Washington. Several former White House officials have received grand jury subpoenas.

And a district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, is investigating whether Trump and his close associates sought to interfere in that state’s election, which was won by Democrat Joe Biden.


Associated Press writers Terry Spencer, Meg Kinnard, Michelle L. Price, Lisa Mascaro, Alan Fram, Darlene Superville and Will Weissert contributed to this report.

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Ex FBI agent turns self in to face Puerto Rico criminal case

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Former FBI agent Mark Rossini, who was indicted in a corruption case against a former Puerto Rico governor, turned himself into federal authorities Tuesday in the U.S. territory and declared himself not guilty, according to officials.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office told The Associated Press that Rossini’s attorney had reached out to authorities just days after former Gov. Wanda Vázquez was arrested to hand over his client.

Rossini is charged with conspiracy, federal program bribery and honest services wire fraud. He entered a not guilty plea during a brief court appearance in which a judge authorized that he could live in the U.S. mainland but not in Spain, where he is receiving cancer treatment. However, the judge said Rossini could travel to Spain for treatment.

His attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.

Last Thursday, hours after FBI agents arrested Vázquez, federal officials announced they were seeking Rossini, who was in Spain.

Authorities said Rossini had provided consulting services to an Italian-Venezuelan banker who had promised to financially support Vázquez’s 2020 campaign for governor in exchange for her dismissing the commissioner of Puerto Rico’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions and appointed a new one of the banker’s choosing. The banker, identified as Julio Herrera Velutini, is believed to be in the United Kingdom and faces charges including conspiracy, bribery and fraud.

After a new commissioner was installed, authorities said Herrera and Rossini paid more than $300,000 to political consultants to support Vázquez’s campaign.

Rossini was an FBI agent from roughly 1991 to 2008, when he resigned as part of a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to criminally accessing a sensitive FBI database for personal purposes. Most of the searches were related to Anthony Pellicano, an infamous private detective for Hollywood stars who was charged in 2006 with wiretapping some celebrities and bribing a police officer.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Why the FBI searching Trump's Mar-a-Lago home may be a sign of things to come

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By any measure, the FBI’s search Monday of former President Donald Trump’s home is blockbuster news. Trump himself appeared to confirm the news when he issued a statement calling the FBI’s action a “raid,” and noted that “nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.”

This time, Trump and his critics can all agree – this is a big deal.

Reporting indicates that the documents are related to the Justice Department’s investigation into Trump’s alleged removal of classified documents from the White House at the end of his presidency. Classified material is information that if disclosed could reasonably be expected to cause damage to the national security of the United States.

Mishandling classified information is a serious crime because it puts at risk sources and methods of information relating to national security. If the content of the documents were to end up in the wrong hands, the identity of government sources could become known and their lives put at risk. Or our methods of collecting information, such as technological capabilities, could become known, undermining their utility.

You can’t leave boxes lying around when they contain the kinds of government secrets that can get people killed, even if you’re the former president.

'Defund the FBI': Trump supporters calmly react to Mar-a-Lago search

What we do know about the FBI search

Despite the seriousness of the offense, cases involving the mishandling of classified material rarely result in lengthy prison time in the absence of a willful violation of the law or intent to harm the national security of the United States, but here, the stakes are higher. A conviction under one of the relevant statutes brings with it disqualification from public office. This means that even if Trump were to face minimal prison time, he could be barred from serving as president again.

While there is still a great deal of information unknown, there are a number of things that we do know:

►To search a residence, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution requires the FBI to obtain a search warrant. Only a judge or magistrate can issue a search warrant. Before the judge may do so, he must find probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime will be found on the premises – not evidence of any crime, but of a specific crime spelled out in a detailed affidavit submitted and sworn to by a federal agent. This means that a judge found probable cause here that evidence of a crime – possibly the removed documents themselves – would be found at Mar-a-Lago.

►A search warrant authorizes the agents to search anywhere on the premises where the item might be found. If the items to be searched for are documents, then agents can look anywhere a document could be stored, in a box, in a drawer, under the bed – all fair game. And, if any evidence is found, agents may seize the item. Here, if the agents find documents that were improperly removed from the White House, they will take them.

►If agents are authorized by a warrant to enter the premises, then they are entitled to seize not only the items that are specified in the warrant but also any contraband they can see in plain view. If they stumble upon documents that appear to be evidence of another crime, they may be able to obtain a second warrant to obtain them.

For example, Trump complained that the FBI had opened his safe, which they were entitled to do if the items they were searching for could have been stored there. But if once inside the safe, agents found documents or other items that incriminated Trump in, say, an election fraud scheme, they could potentially use that information to get another warrant based on that offense and seize those documents as well.

Alex Jones finally faces consequences: Hateful lies have to come with a cost

What do we not know about the FBI investigation?

In addition to these things that we know, there are even more things we do not know at this point. Did the National Archives or Department of Justice make efforts to request the return of all of the documents?

Has Trump been stonewalling since the National Archives first asked for the return of the documents many months ago? Why did Trump remove the documents in the first place? Do the documents contain information that is incriminating of or harmful to his legacy? Who else has access to the Mar-a-Lago residence besides Trump? Might that impact the seriousness of any improper storage?

In addition, is there more to the story – that is, was the subject of the search only the materials removed from the White House or does the warrant also authorize evidence of election fraud? What prompted the execution of the search warrant now? Will the investigation result in charges against Trump or others?

The search is big news, but the events that follow may be even bigger.

Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, an NBC and MSNBC legal analyst, and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors. Follow her on Twitter: @BarbMcQuade

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: FBI searched Trump's Mar-a-Lago: What comes next could be huge

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