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Trump raided: Everything you need to know about Mar-a-Lago, the one-time ‘Winter White House’

Palatial Palm Beach mansion, built by eccentric heiress in 1920s, now ex-president’s primary residence

Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 09 August 2022 14:56 BST
Donald Trump says Florida Mar-a-Lago estate has been 'raided' by FBI

An angry Donald Trump has reported that FBI agents descended on his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Monday evening and staged a dramatic raid.

“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,” the 45th US president raged in a statement.

“Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before. After I [have been] working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate.

“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.”

The agents “even broke into my safe”, Mr Trump griped, claiming it was an attempt to stop him running for the presidency again in 2024.

The surprise development is believed to be part of an investigation into the removal of classified presidential records from the White House following Mr Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election and reluctant retreat from Washington, DC, in January 2021 in the aftermath of the Capitol riot and on the day of his successor Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony.

The Justice Department has yet to comment publicly, however.

As protesters in support of Mr Trump gathered at the gates of Mar-a-Lago last night, his son Eric Trump and daughter-in-law Lara Trump both moved quickly to dismiss the question of any irregularities.

“The purpose of the raid, from what they said, was because the National Archives wanted to, you know, corroborate whether or not Donald Trump had any documents in his possession,” the former commander-in-chief’s son told Sean Hannity on Fox News.

Both he and his wife have insisted Mr Trump is simply in the habit of keeping “press clippings” and souvenirs from his long and eventful career in the public eye.

Interestingly, the raid coincides with the publication of photos by New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman purporting to show scrunched up fragments of presidential documents in a toilet bowl that Mr Trump is alleged to have attempted to flush away, an act that risks violating the Presidential Records Act, which requires him to preserve them.

Mar-a-Lago itself, the property “currently under siege”, covers 62,500 square feet of ground and boasts no fewer than 126 rooms.

Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida (AFP/Getty)

It was acquired by Mr Trump in 1985 for an estimated $10m: he had reportedly originally offered $15m for the house and been rejected, only to then buy up the land between the residence and the Atlantic Ocean and threaten to build a new property there, blocking out the mansion’s beach view and driving down its value.

Having forced the sale, the New York luxury property mogul subsequently carried out extensive renovations, adding a ballroom.

He briefly planned to carve it up into smaller apartments when he blundered into financial difficulties in the early 1990s following the failure of his casino venture in Atlantic City, New Jersey, before finally turning it into a private members’ club in 1994.

The residence had been built between 1924 and 1927 by Marjorie Merriweather Post, a breakfast cereal heiress, philanthropist and Russian art collector, who hired renowned architect Marion Sims Wyeth and interior designer Joseph Urban to realise her vision.

Donald Trump speaking at the latest Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas, over the weekend (AP)

Post lived in it with a sequence of husbands until her death on 12 September 1973, when she bequeathed it to the National Parks Service, imagining grandly that it might be used by the US president as a “Winter White House”.

Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter might have rejected the idea, but that is precisely what Mr Trump ended up using Mar-a-Lago for between 2016 and 2020.

Before he was unceremoniously dumped from office and the estate became his permanent residence, Mr Trump and his wife Melania Trump frequently took refuge from the media glare in its palatial grounds and hosted a number of important heads of state at the property, notably the late Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese premier Xi Jinping and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

These days, Mr Trump holds court in the sunshine, entertaining the flattery of Republican Party luminaries, right-wing media celebrities and those MAGA loyalists wealthy enough to afford the hefty fees.

Its precise membership list remains a closely-guarded secret, although the late billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who lived nearby, is known to have visited and the club’s human resources director, Janine Gill, testified at the trial of Epstein fixer Ghislaine Maxwell in December last year, where she was questioned about accuser Virginia Giuffre’s claim that she had first met Maxwell at Mar-a-Lago when she was 16.

A Jazz Age monument to American prosperity in the spirit (if not quite on the scale) of William Randolph Hearst’s vast Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, Mar-a-Lago was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1980 and remains the 24th largest mansion in the US.

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