Rep. Greg Pence, R-Indiana, has echoed GOP claims that Democrats have weaponized the criminal justice system following an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
Pence, who is up for re-election this year, highlighted in a statement Tuesday that the search occurred during the Biden administration and claimed — without presenting evidence — that other investigations into the former president were part of the Democratic Party’s efforts “to go after its political opponents in order to achieve political gain.”
The statement from Pence comes after the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an investigation into whether the former president took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence, people familiar with the matter said Monday, a move that represents a dramatic and unprecedented escalation of law enforcement scrutiny of the former president, The Associated Press reported.
“Yesterday, under the leadership of the Joe Biden Administration, unprecedented action was taken by the FBI and DOJ targeting a political opponent, former President Donald Trump,” Pence said in the statement. “I urge FBI Director Wray and Attorney General Garland to come forward immediately and explain their actions. We have seen with the Mueller investigation and the Jan. 6th Committee, partisan Democrats will exploit the levers of government to go after its political opponents in order to achieve political gain.”
The search intensifies the months-long probe into how classified documents ended up in boxes of White House records located at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, according to wire reports. It occurs amid a separate grand jury investigation into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and adds to the potential legal peril for Trump as he lays the groundwork for another run.
At the same time, familiar battle lines, forged during a four-year presidency shadowed by FBI and congressional investigations, have quickly taken shape, according to wire reports. Trump and his allies 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 — even though the Biden White House said it had no prior knowledge of it, and the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, was appointed by Trump five years ago and served as a high-ranking official in a Republican-led Justice Department.
“These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” Trump wrote. “Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.”
“After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump said in his statement.
Justice Department spokesperson Dena Iverson declined to comment on the search, including about whether Attorney General Merrick Garland had personally authorized it, according to the AP.
Other Republican members of Indiana’s congressional delegation have rallied behind Trump. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, said in a tweet that “Republicans have a moral duty to fight back!” Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Indiana, tweeted “Is this a banana republic? The ongoing attacks against President Trump for the last almost 6 years has reached a point of outrageousness.”
Trump did not elaborate on the basis for the search, but the Justice Department has been investigating the potential mishandling of classified information after 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, according to wire reports. The National Archives said Trump should have turned over that material upon leaving office, and it asked the Justice Department to investigate.
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 suggest that 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.