Former US President Donald Trump has said his Florida home was raided by the FBI, and that agents broke open a safe.
Mr Trump said in a statement that Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach was “occupied by a large group of FBI agents”.
Monday’s search was reportedly connected to an investigation into Mr Trump’s handling of official papers.
“These are dark times for our nation,” Mr Trump’s statement said. “Nothing like this has ever happened to a president of the United States before.”
Neither the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) nor the justice department have commented on the reported search.
An unnamed law enforcement official told CBS News, the BBC’s US partner, that the Secret Service was notified shortly before the warrant was served around 10:00 local time (14:00 GMT), and that agents protecting Mr Trump helped the FBI investigators.
Several boxes were taken away, the source said, adding that no doors were kicked down and that the raid had concluded by the late afternoon.
A federal search warrant must be signed by a judge. Though such a warrant does not suggest that criminal charges are expected, law enforcement agencies must first demonstrate the possibility that evidence of illegality will be found.
There has never been a search warrant quite like this in American history, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg told the BBC, describing it it as “a big deal”.
American presidents are required by the Presidential Records Act (PRA) to transfer all of their letters, work documents and emails to the National Archives (NA).
There are also other federal laws regarding the handling of classified documents.
In February, the National Archives said it had retrieved 15 boxes of papers from Mar-a-Lago, which Mr Trump should have turned over when he left the White House.
The agency later told Congress the boxes included “items marked as classified national security information”.
Mr Trump’s lawyer, Christina Bobb, told NBC News that some papers had been seized during the search.
The dramatic escalation of law enforcement scrutiny of Mr Trump comes as the Republican prepares for a possible further presidential run in 2024.
News of the search has mobilised some of Donald Trump’s supporters. A group of fans gathered outside Mar-a-Lago to wave flags and express their anger.
House of Representatives Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy said: “I’ve seen enough. The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponised politicisation.”
Meanwhile, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, tweeted: “Using government power to persecute political opponents is something we have seen many times from 3rd world Marxist dictatorships.”
Mr Trump said he had co-operated with all relevant government agencies and so the “unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate”.
He said it amounted to “prosecutorial misconduct” and “the weaponisation of the justice system” to prevent him from running for the White House again.
“Such an assault could only take place in broken, Third-World countries,” he said. “Sadly, America has now become one of those countries, corrupt at a level not seen before.
“They even broke into my safe!”
The former president was in Trump Tower in New York City at the time of the reported raid.
Eric Trump, the president’s second-oldest son, told Fox News that the FBI’s execution of the search warrant on Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was related to an investigation into the handling of National Archives records.
NA officials say the former president illegally ripped up many documents. Some of them had to be taped back together, they say.
Mr Trump at the time rejected reports that he had mishandled official records as “fake news”.
A senior Trump adviser in Palm Beach told CBS the new search by federal agents on Mar-a-Lago was about the presidential records.
“This is about the PRA,” said the Trump source, who only agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.
“When have you ever heard about a raid because of PRA?”
The source added: “They [the FBI] just left and they left with very little.”
In a forthcoming book, Confidence Man, New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman reports that staff at the White House residency sometimes found wads of paper clogging a toilet, and that they believed Mr Trump was the flusher.
Ms Haberman has posted photos which she says show paper in a toilet bowl at the White House.
A senior White House official has told CBS that President Joe Biden’s administration was given no notice of the FBI search in Florida on Monday.
The White House has said it is limiting its interactions with top justice department officials to avoid any hint of political pressure or impropriety.
Mr Biden pledged during his White House campaign to stay out of justice department affairs. The Democratic president and his family are also waiting to see whether federal prosecutors will indict his son, Hunter Biden, on tax evasion or other federal charges.
A hugely significant move
There is a school of thought that the timing of this search is designed to avoid the long-held maxim that the justice department does not engage in actions that are deemed politically sensitive, near the time of an election.
We are exactly three months away from the poll that will determine the makeup of the next Congress. Rarely has there been such a sensitive time in American politics.
Mr Trump certainly believes the motives behind the “raid” were entirely political – a move designed to scupper his chances of running for the White House in 2024.
There is much that we do not know, but Mr Trump’s supporters are apoplectic with rage at what’s happened.
It is an open question why a search warrant was needed to enter Mar-a-Lago, when the former president said he had been co-operating with the relevant government agencies. But it is a hugely significant move by the justice department.
Donald Trump’s other legal battles:
- A House of Representatives select committee is investigating Mr Trump’s actions surrounding the US Capitol riot on 6 January 2021 – when Trump supporters rioted at the Congress building in Washington DC as lawmakers met to certify Mr Biden’s election victory
- The justice department is examining the former president’s challenge to the results of the 2020 presidential election
- A prosecutor in Fulton County, Georgia, is investigating whether Mr Trump and his associates tried to interfere in that state’s results from the election
- On top of that, Mr Trump faces a further array of lawsuits ranging from allegations of fraud, to inflating asset values, to sexual harassment. He denies any wrongdoing