The FBI recently raided Trump's residence to recover documents that were supposedly taken by Trump sometime in January 2021. However this raises the question... why wait for so long to do so? Shouldn't his residence have been raided sometime in February 2021, assuming he refused to immediately surrender the documents? Why did the FBI need 18 months to plan this raid?

Wiki claims that the government has been complaining about the missing documents since at least May 2021.

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    For the FBI to act, there must exist credible tips that point to a suspect criminal act/plot, or directed by the higher-ups in the justice department, who received the tips or the request from the administration, the congress, or other federal/local law enforcement agencies, The tips/request came late in this case.
    – r13
    Aug 15, 2022 at 21:37
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    Unless they announce how long they knew about this information or what it was that triggered the raid this will be very hard if not impossible to answer.
    – Joe W
    Aug 15, 2022 at 22:07
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    @JoeW they're basically setting up a Trump 2024 win if they don't reveal anything, so I'm sure it will happen Aug 15, 2022 at 22:29
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    There is a difference between revealing some things and revealing enough for the public to fully understand why the raid happened when it did and not earlier. We might know in a couple of weeks/months as more actions happen or even after action happens they might not need to released everything.
    – Joe W
    Aug 15, 2022 at 22:36
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    @JonathanReez The authorities won't publish the affidavit while the investigation is ongoing.
    – Lag
    Aug 16, 2022 at 7:34

2 Answers 2


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:

  1. Proper legal procedure takes time
  2. 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

Outline timeline

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.


Our current administration has been careful to not make the mistakes of totalitarian regimes by 'knee jerk' reaction to opposition of automatically hanging the opponents. Rule of law, evenly applied, means giving careful consideration to ALL citizens, regardless of net-worth or social importance.

EDIT BJV: I speak from the standpoint and experience of personally working with S/TS/TSC classified information. I've been in daily work conditions in which I enter SCIFs (Secret Compartmentalized Information Facility) with nothing more than what I am wearing. Not even paper/pencil. I've said to my son on 'take your kid to work day'... "you see all those red lights that are lit up on the ceilings wherever we go? That is because you are here without appropriate clearance." Anything I come to know in the SCIF to perform my engineering tasks is carried only in my mind. I am very very scared that our general population does not understand how much danger Trump is to the American way of life.

  • This answer could be much improved by providing some reference to what 'rule of law' is being followed.
    – Zibbobz
    Aug 16, 2022 at 13:56
  • I’d note that Wikileaks has shown that most classified material is pretty mundane despite all the bravado by government officials. But who knows, maybe Trump did take something that’s truly juicy. Aug 16, 2022 at 14:25

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