Trump pushes conspiracy theory about FBI agents “planting” evidence in Truth Social meltdown

"Trump talking about ‘planted’ evidence means he knows there is something damning they found," ex-prosecutor says

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published August 10, 2022 11:31AM (EDT)

Former President Donald Trump (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump and his lawyers pushed a conspiracy theory that FBI agents may have "planted" incriminating evidence while executing a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago residence.

FBI agents on Monday executed a warrant at Trump's Palm Beach home, meaning that a judge found enough probable cause to approve the search. Agents investigating presidential documents that Trump took with him to Mar-a-Lago, including classified materials, removed 12 boxes of items from Mar-a-Lago after Trump turned over 15 boxes of materials to the National Archives earlier this year, according to the Washington Post. Trump attorney Christina Bobb told the outlet that the search warrant indicated that the FBI is investigating possible violations of the Presidential Records Act and laws related to the handling of classified material. Trump has thus far refused to release his copy of the search warrant even though it could provide transparency on what agents were searching for.

Bobb said that she was not allowed to observe the search, as is common during such FBI operations. But Trump and his lawyers have seized on that fact to push a conspiracy theory that the FBI may have "planted" something without providing any evidence to support their claims.

"The FBI and others from the Federal Government would not let anyone, including my lawyers, be anywhere near the areas that were rummaged and otherwise looked at during the raid on Mar-a-Lago," Trump said on his Twitter knockoff Truth Social. "Everyone was asked to leave the premises, they wanted to be left alone, without any witnesses to see what they were doing, taking or, hopefully not, 'planting.' Why did they STRONGLY insist on having nobody watching them, everybody out? Obama and Clinton were never 'raided,' despite big disputes!"

Bobb, a former TV host at the right-wing outlet OAN who joined Trump's legal team, made a similar claim on Monday, citing only the fact that she was not allowed to observe the search.

"There is no security that something wasn't planted," Bobb said in an interview, adding, "I'm not saying that's what they did."

"At this point, I don't necessarily think that they would even go to the extent of trying to plant information, I think they just make stuff up and come up with whatever they want and that's the way that they will have to proceed in order to actually try to indict the president because they don't have anything," she said.

Fellow Trump attorney Alina Habba told Fox News that she was also "concerned that they may have planted something. You know, at this point, who knows? I don't trust the government and that's a very frightening thing as an American."

Trump's right-wing allies have parroted this evidence-free claim to their followers.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., cited his distrust of the government to suggest that the FBI "may put something" in the boxes they removed from Mar-a-Lago to "entrap" Trump.

"I think there is an extremely high probability that the FBI planted 'evidence' against President Trump," tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. "Otherwise WHY would they NOT allow his attorneys or anyone watch them while they conducted their unprecedented raid? They know the consequences of an empty handed power move."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and Trump ally Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, both discussed their belief that the FBI may have "planted evidence" on Kirk's show Monday.

Trump's defenders on Fox News have also echoed the claim.

"They could have easily negotiated the return of documents like that without guns and warrants. What the FBI is probably doing is planting evidence," Fox News host Jesse Watters said without any evidence. "We also have a hunch they doctored evidence to get the warrant."

Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt suggested that FBI agents may have dumped "backpacks" full of incriminating evidence at Mar-a-Lago.

"His lawyer said they brought in backpacks, what was in those backpacks?" Earhardt said. "Did they bring those in to fill them up or did they have something in there?"

Agents raided Mar-a-Lago because they believed Trump did not turn over all classified information he had taken to his home, according to The Wall Street Journal. Trump's lawyers had been in discussions with federal officials about the records for months. Trump attorneys in June showed investigators a basement room where boxes of materials were being stored. The Justice Department directed Trump's team to secure the room, prompting them to add a padlock to the door. It's unclear what triggered Monday's raid.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

Legal experts pushed back on the claims. Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig called the idea that FBI agents "may" have planted evidence "ridiculous."

"How would anybody even know at this point?" he questioned. "If you're going to fabricate some accusation, at least wait until you might plausibly have a basis for it."

Former federal prosecutor Richard Signorelli condemned Trump's attorneys for pushing the claim.

"These are baseless lies but unfortunately will be believed by deranged, ignorant MAGA cult members," he tweeted.

Defense attorney Ken White noted that forbidding anyone from observing their searches is standard practice.

"Law enforcement does not let anyone, including lawyers, observe what they're doing during searches," he wrote. "They typically remove everyone from the searched area. This has always been the case. This is the latest 'it's an outrage when the typical happens to me.'"

Former federal prosecutor Michael Stern suggested that TrumpWorld is trotting out the claim because the FBI may have found damaging evidence at his home.

"I have written hundreds of search warrants. Lawyers and people whose homes are being searched are routinely not present during the search," he wrote. "That Trump is now talking about 'planted' evidence means he knows there is something damning they found."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Alina Habba Christina Bobb Donald Trump Politics