Why did the FBI search Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate? 5 potential explanations

Antonio Fins
Palm Beach Post

Monday's FBI search of Mar-a-Lago was unprecedented – federal agents had never before searched the home of a former U.S. president.

Then again, no other commander-in-chief has drawn as much investigative scrutiny as Donald J. Trump, who was impeached twice.

More:President Nixon toured Mar-a-Lago. Then he resigned a month later.

The question, though, is what could federal authorities have been looking for? Most speculation is focused on a series of ongoing investigations of the ex-president.

Here is a scorecard:

1. The missing documents kept at Mar-a-Lago caper

Federal officials are believed to be reviewing Trump's possession of government records at Mar-a-Lago after he left the presidency, as well as claims by officials that Trump destroyed documents during his presidency.

In one bizarre report, Trump was said to have flushed some documents down a toilet – a claim Trump ridiculed.

By law, presidential records and papers are public property and must be protected, and then handed over to the U.S. National Archives when a presidency ends.

FBI search:Former President Trump says FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach

'You can't trust the FBI':Trump loyalists descend on Mar-a-Lago as news breaks of FBI search

See replay:After FBI search, supporters with signs, loud music cruise past Mar-a-Lago

2. The Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and alleged coup attempt

A series of televised hearings by the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol has laid out what the panel has called an elaborate attempt to illegally overturn the 2020 presidential election won by President Joe Biden.

That effort, key parts of which were conducted while Trump was spending the December 2020 Christmas holiday at his private club in Palm Beach, involved pressuring U.S. Justice Department officials to falsely say the election had been fraudulently carried out.

The committee also alleges Trump was deeply involved in the march and protest that turned violent on Capitol Hill that day.

Florida governor reacts:DeSantis slams FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate

What we know:Donald Trump says FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Here's what we know

3. A scheme to provide fake electors to overturn the 2020 election

As part of the campaign to overturn the 2020 election, Trump is accused of having knowledge of a scheme to attempt to substitute fake electors for legitimate ones designated to cast the constitutionally-required electoral votes to elect Biden in December 2020.

It has been disclosed that federal prosecutors had been questioning witnesses about the conduct of the former president as part of an inquiry into an effort to overturn the 2020 election, a person familiar with the matter told USA Today last month.

A look inside Mar-a-Lago:Archive photos give peek inside Trump's estate in Palm Beach

In July, federal investigators searched the home of former assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark, who drafted a letter to officials in six states seeking to overturn their election results. And authorities seized the cellphone of John Eastman, one of Trump's personal lawyers who developed a scheme to have then-Vice President Mike Pence singlehandedly reject electors from states Biden won. Pence refused to carry out such a plan.

4. State officials looking at Trump ask to "find" votes in Georgia

Georgia authorities looking into allegations that Trump pressed election officials in that state to "find" him enough votes to fraudulently win Georgia's electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election.

The basis of the claim is a recorded conversation in early January 2021 in which Trump told Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. "Fellas, I just need to find 11,780 votes." he then said.

5. Financial dealings also draw investigative scrutiny

Trump and many of his associates are also under scrutiny by the FBI, the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service and other federal and state agencies for alleged wrongdoing during his four-year administration and related to his various business entities.

Information from USA Today was used in this report.

Antonio Fins is a politics and business editor at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at afins@pbpost.comHelp support our journalism. Subscribe today.