In terms of the classified material, according to the public record, it was this year the FBI got probable cause to search Mar-a-Lago for such material pursuant to a search warrant.
We don't know whether they had probable cause last year or whether, if they did, it was for crimes of sufficient seriousness to risk the accusations of politicisation and the controversy that has occurred with this search in August 2022.
From the publicly available information, we 'know' that the matter of the classified material came to the attention of the authorities in early 2022. We 'know' that 'sensitive national security documents' remained in Mar-a-Lago in early June 2022.
Two notes before the timeline below:
- Proper legal procedure takes time
- Two perspectives on the publicly known circumstances, which are not mutually exclusive:
a. the DoJ has been more careful/deferential than it would have been with any other person;
b. the DoJ gave Trump et al some rope with which to hang themselves if the latter mucked the DoJ about
In January 2021 Trump left the White House, taking with him a number of boxes that we now know contained 'presidential records' and some classified material.
The National Archives and Records Admininstration thought that among the boxes there were some presidential records that hadn't been given to them, contrary to the Presidential Records Act. After some months of discussion between Trump's representatives and NARA, in mid-January 2022 15 boxes of material that should have been returned at the end of Trump's administration a year prior (see Presidential Records Act) were transferred from Mar-a-Lago to the NARA. The NARA began to process the contents of the boxes.
In February 2022, in response to a letter from a congressional oversight committee, the NARA said that the material had among it some classified information. The NARA said this matter had been referred to the Department of Justice.
In April 2022, NARA acknowledged the DoJ was involved and some news outlets reported that prosecutors had launched a criminal investigation.
In May 2022, the DoJ subpoenaed NARA for access to the classified documents.
On June 3 2022 four investigators, including the head of DoJ's counterintelligence and export control section, visited Trump's attorneys at Mar-a-Lago to enquire about the classified material that had been taken there. They looked around the basement room where the material was stored and served a grand jury subpoena for some of the classified documents still on the premises, which they removed.
On June 8 2022 the DoJ asked Trump's attorneys to improve the security of the basement room.
On June 22 2022 the DoJ served a subpoena demanding surveillance video from Mar-a-Lago.
On August 5 2022 a search warrant was approved and signed by a court.
On August 8 2022 the FBI searched parts of Mar-a-Lago pursuant to the warrant.