The Federal Bureau of Investigation has raided Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida reportedly over a probe into the handling of presidential documents, triggering an angry outburst from the former president who termed it "prosecutorial misconduct" and "the weaponisation of the justice system" to prevent him from running for the White House in 2024.
Trump, 76, said in a statement on Monday that Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach was "occupied by a large group of FBI agents".
“These are dark times for our nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before,” Trump, who was the 45th President of the US, said in the lengthy statement.
The Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment on the raid.
The dramatic escalation of law enforcement scrutiny of Trump comes as he prepares for a possible third presidential run in 2024.
Three people familiar with the situation told CNN that the raid was conducted as part of an investigation into the handling of presidential documents, including classified documents, that may have been brought to his Florida residence.
Trump was not at his Palm Beach estate during the search and was in the New York City area, media reports said.
“After working and cooperating with the relevant government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump, the Republican Party leader, said.
Trump alleged that such an assault could only take place in broken, third-world countries.
“Sadly, America has now become one of those countries, corrupt at a level not seen before,” he said.
He demanded that the lawlessness, political persecution and witch-hunt must be exposed and stopped.
“It is political targeting at the highest level!” he said.
“I will continue to fight for the great American People!” he added.
The US Justice Department is investigating whether Trump had taken classified records to his Florida residence after he left the White House in 2020.
“They even broke into my safe! What is the difference between this and Watergate, where operatives broke into the Democrat National Committee? Here, in reverse, Democrats broke into the home of the 45th President of the United States,” the former president said.
“It is prosecutorial misconduct, the weaponisation of the justice system, and an attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don't want me to run for President in 2024, especially based on recent polls, and who will likewise do anything to stop Republicans and Conservatives in the upcoming Midterm Elections,” Trump said.
In February, the National Archives asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump's handling of White House records.
The National Archives, charged with collecting and sorting presidential material, has previously said at least 15 boxes of White House records were recovered from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort -- including some that were classified.
The estate sits on 20 acres that border the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Florida's Intracoastal Waterway on the other. In 2018, Forbes valued the Mar-a-Lago estate at USD 160 million. Trump keeps a section of the estate private for his family's personal use.
In early June, a handful of investigators made a rare visit to the property seeking more information about potentially classified material from Trump's time in the White House that had been taken to Florida.
Under the Presidential Records Act, documents received and sent by the president are required to be preserved by the office.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel claimed in a statement that Democrats "continually weaponise the bureaucracy against Republicans.
A number of Republican lawmakers came to the former President's defence on social media.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, wrote that he had "seen enough."
"Attorney General (Merrick) Garland: preserve your documents and clear your calendar. I've seen enough. The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicisation," the Republican leader wrote.
"When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned."
Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida said that "we need answers now. The FBI must explain what they were doing today & why."
But the chair of the House Oversight Committee, which is investigating Trump's handling of documents, called on the Justice Department to "fully investigate" the former President's handling of information.
"Presidents have a solemn duty to protect America's national security, and allegations that former President Trump put our security at risk by mishandling classified information warrant the utmost scrutiny," Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York said.
"Although details of today's actions at Mar-a-Lago are still emerging, it is clear that the Department of Justice must fully investigate President Trump's potentially grave mishandling of classified information."
Trump is facing another investigation for allegedly helping incite the mob on January 6, 2021, with a “web of lies” about the 2020 US presidential election being marred by widespread voter fraud.
Trump is the only US President to have never held political office prior to his presidency.