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FACT FOCUS: Trump distorts use of ‘deadly force’ language in FBI document for Mar-a-Lago search

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Former President Donald Trump pointed to standard language in an FBI documentunsealed Tuesday to baselessly claim that the Biden administration wanted to kill him during a search of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach nearly two years ago.

“WOW! I just came out of the Biden Witch Hunt Trial in Manhattan, the ‘Icebox,’ and was shown Reports that Crooked Joe Biden’s DOJ, in their illegal and UnConstitutional Raid of Mar-a-Lago, AUTHORIZED THE FBI TO USE DEADLY (LETHAL) FORCE,” Trump wrote in a post on his social media platform Truth Social Tuesday night. “NOW WE KNOW, FOR SURE, THAT JOE BIDEN IS A SERIOUS THREAT TO DEMOCRACY. HE IS MENTALLY UNFIT FOR OFFICE — 25TH AMENDMENT!”

The claim was also boosted online by his supporters.

But the language Trump referenced is a standard policy statement used for issuing search warrants and was not unique to the FBI’s search of his property. It is actually meant to limit the use of deadly force.

Here’s a closer look at the facts.

CLAIM:

The Biden administration authorized the use of “deadly force” against former President Donald Trump during an FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate in 2022.

THE FACTS:

The policy statement on the “use of deadly force,” which appeared in an operations order for the Mar-a-Lago search, is not evidence of a plot to kill Trump. It is a Department of Justice policy that is standard to include in such documents.

“The FBI followed standard protocol in this search as we do for all search warrants, which includes a standard policy statement limiting the use of deadly force,” the agency said in a statement. “No one ordered additional steps to be taken and there was no departure from the norm in this matter.”

As it appears in the operations order, the policy stipulates in part that Department of Justice officers “may use deadly force only when necessary, that is, when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.” The policy is in the department’s Justice Manual with only minor differences in wording to what is included in the order and is summarized on the FBI’s website.

Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI, reiterated in an X post what the agency said in its statement.

“Yep, every FBI operations order contains a reminder of FBI deadly force policy,” he wrote. “Even for a search warrant. Deadly force is always authorized if the required threat presents itself.”

A motion that Trump’s lawyers filed in his federal classified documents case, also unsealed Tuesday, asserted that the August 2022 search was unconstitutional and “illegal,” misquoting the operations order as saying that “law enforcement officers of the Department of Justice may use deadly force when necessary.”

Trump wasn’t at Mar-a-Lago, which was shuttered for the season, at the time of the search. The Associated Press reported at the time that the FBI reached out to the Secret Service detail that provides protection to the former president and his homes shortly before serving the warrant.

The facts did not stop Trump and his allies from spreading the erroneous allegation.

A Trump campaign fundraising email with the subject line, “They were authorized to shoot me!” was sent soon after he posted on social media and made even more outrageous claims.

“I nearly escaped death,” it reads. “You know they’re just itching to do the unthinkable. … Joe Biden was locked & loaded ready to take me out & put my family in danger.”

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP about the false claims.

Hard-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican, wrote in an X post that “the Biden DOJ and FBI were planning to assassinate Pres Trump and gave the green light.”

Kari Lake, a Republican Senate candidate in Arizona, wrote in her own X post: “The sicko Biden FBI were ready to use deadly force during the Mar-a-Lago BS raid. That tells you everything you need to know about this criminal Biden admin.”

Trump was charged in June 2023 with illegally retaining classified documents taken with him from the White House to Mar-a-Lago after he left office in January 2021, and then obstructing government demands to give them back. Additional related charges were filed a month later. The FBI searched Mar-a-Lago as part of a probe that led to the indictment.

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