Key details remain secret, including what the FBI was looking for and why authorities felt the need to conduct a surprising search after months of legal wrangling between the government and lawyers for Mr. Trump.
The search took place as angry voices on the far-right fringes of US politics talk about a new civil war, and as more mainstream Republicans threaten retaliation if they take power in Congress in the fall. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader in the House, warned Mr. Garland to keep documents and erase his agenda.
“This puts our political culture in a sort of emergency alarm mode,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “It’s like flipping the apple cart of American politics.”
Critics of Trump said it was no surprise that a president who shattered legal and procedural standards while in the Oval Office would now find himself in the middle of a dispute over classified documents.
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For nearly 35 years, the tug-of-war over presidential documents — and who controls them — has been largely bureaucratic in the halls of the National Archives and discussed among lawyers in courtrooms.
Former President Richard M. Nixon spent nearly four years after Watergate fighting for control of millions of pages of presidential records and hundreds of hours of the tapes that helped him resign. Mr. Beschloss said Nixon initially made a deal with President Gerald R. Ford that would have given him control of his papers and also the ability to destroy them. But a law passed by Congress after Nixon left office in August 1974 forced him to take his fight to court. He eventually lost in the Supreme Court, in a 7-to-2 decision.