The fallout from Donald Trump's unparalleled legal problems

·4 min read

The skies above former President Trump's home at Mar-a-Lago were clear, but a week of legal storm clouds stretched from south Florida to Washington to New York, propelling America into heavy legal and political weather.

For eight hours Monday, few knew the FBI, armed with a search warrant, was inside Trump's residence retrieving more than 20 boxes of documents – some containing classified information – from his bedroom, office and storage room. According to the Washington Post, some of those records dealt with nuclear weapons.

FBI took boxes and documents in Trump search, sources say

On Saturday it was revealed that in June a Trump lawyer signed a statement indicating all papers marked "classified" stored at the former president's Florida home had been returned to the government. But federal agents found even more materials labeled classified at Mar-a-Lago during their search last Monday.

A search warrant unsealed Friday afternoon revealed Trump was under possible investigation for violations of the Espionage Act; obstruction; and theft of government documents.

Mar-a-Lago search warrant released, reveals FBI seized top-secret classified documentsCopy of search warrant (pdf)What is the Espionage Act?

Trump announced his home was "under siege." Instantaneously, supporters rushed to the narrow causeway from West Palm Beach to Mar-a-Lago.

"I definitely think it was unfair and suspicious," one Trump supporter, Janine Kotocavage, told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett.

One man, standing with a portrait of Trump, told Garrett, "I think he will win in a landslide in 2024."

Garrett asked, "In part because of this?"

"Absolutely."

"I definitely think it was unfair and suspicious": Supporters, GOP lawmakers rally behind Trump amid FBI search ("CBS Mornings")

Dueling protests are held outside Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday, the day after it was learned the FBI had served a search warrant and seized boxes of classified documents from Trump's Florida home.  / Credit: Photos by Luiz C. Ribeiro for N.Y. Daily News via Getty Images
Dueling protests are held outside Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday, the day after it was learned the FBI had served a search warrant and seized boxes of classified documents from Trump's Florida home. / Credit: Photos by Luiz C. Ribeiro for N.Y. Daily News via Getty Images

Republicans in Congress also defended Trump, some more aggressively than others.

Republicans rail against DOJ over FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago, vowing investigations

On Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland defended the FBI operation, and noted, "I personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter."

He added, "The department does not take such a decision lightly."

On social media, some Trump loyalists denounced the FBI (led by Trump-appointed Director Christopher Wray).

Republicans in Congress attacked the FBI after classified documents kept at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home were seized by law enforcement.   / Credit: CBS News
Republicans in Congress attacked the FBI after classified documents kept at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home were seized by law enforcement. / Credit: CBS News

Online violent extremist rhetoric soars after Mar-a-Lago searchFederal law enforcement leaders warn about danger as GOP assails FBI (The Washington Post)

In Cincinnati, a Trump supporter attempted to infiltrate an FBI field office. He came armed with a nail gun and assault-style rifle. After a standoff, he died in a shootout – a casualty of apparent political rage that, over the week, appeared to deepen.

Sen. Tim Kaine on Trump and GOP's "violent" rhetoric after Mar-a-Lago search ("The Takeout")

Trump said he was being attacked on all sides, meaning the FBI but also the New York attorney general, who is investigating whether the Trump Organization hyped property values to obtain bank loans while low-balling those same valuations to evade taxes.

At his deposition on the matter, Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination hundreds of times – something he railed against on the campaign trail in 2016: "You see, the mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?"

Former President Donald Trump on his way to a deposition with New York Attorney General Letitia James for an investigation into the Trump Organization, August 10, 2022 in New York City. He plead the Fifth Amendment 440 times.  / Credit: James Devaney, GC Images via Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump on his way to a deposition with New York Attorney General Letitia James for an investigation into the Trump Organization, August 10, 2022 in New York City. He plead the Fifth Amendment 440 times. / Credit: James Devaney, GC Images via Getty Images

Yet another blow to Trump: a federal appeals court Tuesday ruled Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee can obtain his tax returns, which he had tried for years to keep private.  [In 2017 he stated, "I'm not releasing the tax returns because, as you know, they're under audit."]

Through it all, Trump was reminded of his own words – and actions. In 2018 he signed legislation increasing prison sentences for the mishandling of classified information.

Some Trump White House records were torn up and taped back together, National Archives saysThe consequences Trump could face for mishandling White House records

And even as Trump charged America was turning into a banana republic, federal and state authorities said they were following the facts and the law in service of the republic.

As Garland noted Thursday in his public statement, "Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy. Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor."

As Trump considers a bid to win back the White House, the nation pondered not only that possibility, but one of a former president running again while under criminal investigation, or possibly indictment.

A stormy situation indeed.

    Story produced by Arden Farhi and Anthony Laudato. Editor: Joseph Frandino.

Margaret Brennan details the timeline of the Mar-a-Lago search and fallout

Full interview: Rep. Adam Schiff on “Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan”

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