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Unprecedented search in Mar-a-Lago: Legal experts react to investigation of Trump estate



(WIVB) — It’s never happened before. This is the first time a U.S. President has ever been served a search warrant. Legal experts in Western New York say the Federal Bureau of Investigations was well within its rights to search former President Donald Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago, Fla.

The search was executed Monday evening. Several agents entered the estate after obtaining a search warrant. They were seen removing documents from the area, which many believe were classified materials from the Trump Administration.

“No civilian, I don’t care if that civilian was the former President or you or I can lawfully possess classified documents,” Anthony Bruce, former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, told News 4 Tuesday.

Bruce served as a federal prosecutor for decades in Western New York, working under every Presidential Administration from Carter to Obama. He says agents were working within the law when they searched the estate and that no warning was required before the search.

“The reason for getting a search warrant is to give the agents an element of surprise. Obviously, they have to provide a copy of the warrant itself when they go in, but there’s no prior notice requirement at all,” Bruce added.

As a former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York under President Bush, Terry Flynn points out the unprecedented nature of the search.

“Historically, we haven’t seen search warrants executed on property of former Presidents but we have a long history in the country of executing search warrants when warranted on politicians at all levels,” Flynn continued.

These veteran prosecutors say the FBI had to present significant evidence to a judge to obtain the warrant.

“The facts have to say that a crime was committed and evidence of that crime will be found at X place. In this situation, Mar-A-Lago,” Bruce said.

The specific details of the warrant are confidential and won’t likely be released to the public until later in the investigation. It is also not known what exactly was removed from Mar-a-Lago as result of the investigation.

“It’s just very premature because under a search warrant it is confidential and this is not information that normally would be shared with the public at such early stages,” Flynn said.

The next step in the case is to analyze the documents to determine if federal charges are warranted. Terry Flynn says the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Department of Justice are unlikely to comment on this investigation until they know more.

“The process obviously has many more steps in it where this evidence will be tested and more importantly where the warrant will be called into question or not,” Flynn said.

Both Bruce and Flynn say it is too early in the investigation for there to be any formal charges in this case. Former President Trump has called this search “an attack by Radical Left Democrats” and he says they do not want him to run in 2024.

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.





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