Trump claims Mar-a-Lago surveillance tape of FBI ‘looks like a military coup’

Mr Trump says the FBI has asked him to keep surveillance footage private because identifying the FBI agents involved in the search of his property could compromise their safety

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Tuesday 20 September 2022 16:21 BST
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Former president Donald Trump on Tuesday claimed surveillance footage of the court-authorised FBI search of his Palm Beach, Florida, home shows a scene akin to one in which the military deposes a civilian government.

Since leaving office in January 2021, Mr Trump has maintained his primary residence and post-presidential office at Mar-a-Lago, a 1920s-era mansion which he turned into a private club in the mid-1990s. The property has surveillance cameras throughout, and those cameras remained turned on when FBI agents executed a search warrant there on 8 August.

According to an unsealed copy of the receipt Mr Trump’s lawyers recieved following the search, investigators recovered more than 100 “unique documents with classification markings” from locations throughout the mansion, including from Mr Trump’s desk.

Though Justice Department officials have said they attempted to execute the search with discretion, Mr Trump has repeatedly described the event as a “ransacking” of his private spaces.

Speaking during a call-in interview on the right-wing Newsmax network, Mr Trump expanded on his description of events, telling the anchors that agents had “swarmed the place”.

“It looks like a military coup. It's not a pretty picture,” he said when asked about the surveillance footage.

The twice-impeached ex-president said he has not released the footage because the FBI has asked him to refrain from doing so out of concern for the safety of the agents who conducted the search.

“They've asked us not to put it out, but we do have it,” he said.

Mr Trump’s past conduct regarding the safety of FBI agents may have given rise to concerns for agents’ safety if the footage were to become public.

In a memorandum asking a Florida judge to keep parts of the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant under seal, Department of Justice attorneys said it was necessary to shield certain details in the affidavit from public view in order to protect “multiple civilian witnesses whose information was included throughout the affidavit”.

Prosecutors also said protecting witness identities is necessary because they may be subject to retaliation, intimidation or harassment from Mr Trump’s supporters, including threats against their lives or safety. Mr Trump’s camp previously released the names of two agents who conducted the search to the right-wing Breitbart News website, leading to those agents becoming targets for the ex-president’s followers.

“FBI agents who have been publicly identified in connection with this investigation have received repeated threats of violence from members of the public. Exposure of witnesses' identities would likely erode their trust in the government’s investigation, and it would almost certainly chill other potential witnesses from coming forward in this investigation and others,” they wrote.

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