Fact Check: NO Trump Assassination Authority Granted By Use-Of-Force Language In FBI Mar-A-Lago Raid Plan -- Self-Defense Language Is Boilerplate

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: NO Trump Assassination Authority Granted By Use-Of-Force Language In FBI Mar-A-Lago Raid Plan -- Self-Defense Language Is Boilerplate Routine Text

Did the use-of-force language in the FBI plan for the raid at Mar-a-Lago in August 2022 give agents special authority to assassinate Donald Trump? No, that's not true: There is no evidence or indication in any official documents or statements that suggests the FBI agents were given authority to assassinate anyone, including the former president. The purpose of the raid was to recover classified documents. Agents are customarily given directions to use force only if necessary to ensure their own safety and that of others when serving search warrants and executing searches.

The claim appeared in an article (archived here) published on X, formerly Twitter, by Rudy W. Giuliani on May 21, 2024. The post's caption said:

BREAKING NEWS: Newly released documents in relation to the Mar-a-Lago raid show that armed FBI agents were prepared to confront President Trump and engage with the Secret Service w/ deadly force.

In other words, they were authorized to assassinate the 45th president...


This is what the post looked like on X at the time of writing:


(Source: X screenshot taken on Wed May 22 15:50:56 2024 UTC)

Talking point

Giuliani's claim was echoed by other high-level Republicans on social media, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who shared a May 21, 2024, post from Trump's Truth Social account on X. Both appear below:


(Source: X screenshot taken on Wed May 22 17:56:37 2024 UTC)

Response to claim: FBI

In a May 22, 2024, email to Lead Stories, the FBI addressed the claim in Giuliani's post that its agents were "authorized to assassinate the 45th president" during the August 8, 2022, raid at Mar-a-Lago. The agency's statement said:

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. No one ordered additional steps to be taken and there was no departure from the norm in this matter.

U.S. attorney general

Attorney General Merrick Garland addressed the same claim a day later during a Justice Department news conference on May 23, 2024. He said, "That allegation is false and it is extremely dangerous." Garland continued:

The document that is being referred to in the allegation is the Justice Department standard policy, limiting the use of force. As the FBI advises, it is part of the standard operations plan for searches. And, in fact, it was even used in the consensual search of President Biden's home.

FBI expert

Kenneth Gray, a retired 24-year veteran of the FBI and a senior lecturer at the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven, told Lead Stories in a May 22, 2024, email that "The idea that the FBI was directed or approved to assassinate the President is ludicrous and wrong." Noting he had retired from the agency in 2012, Gray said:

During my time with the FBI, search warrants did not contain any statements of use of deadly force. That would appear in the Operation Order (OpOrder) which are instructions for the FBI Special Agents engaged in an operation like the search of MAL [Mar-a-Lago]. It would contain a boiler-plate statement of the use of deadly force policy being in effect, as it is always in effect - that is, deadly force is permitted when necessary, when you believe that you or others have an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm.

Gray continued:

Since I left the Bureau, the Attorney General has added additional steps for the use of force, such as use force only when no reasonably effective, safe, and feasible alternative appears to exist and may use only the level of force that a reasonable officer on the scene would use under the same or similar circumstances.

Garland's updated use-of-force policy from May 20, 2022, is available here (archived here).

Additionally, a report from The Washington Post from March 1, 2023, titled "Showdown before the raid: FBI agents and prosecutors argued over Trump," said the FBI used discretion in how the Mar-a-Lago raid was handled to avoid any potential conflict:

FBI agents found ways to make the search less confrontational than it otherwise could have been, according to people familiar with the investigation: The search would take place when Trump was in New York and not in Palm Beach; the Secret Service would receive a heads-up a few hours before FBI agents arrived to avoid any law enforcement conflict; and agents would wear white polo shirts and khakis to cut a lower profile than if they wore their traditional blue jackets with FBI insignia.

Read more

At the time this was written, Raw Story had reviewed the same claim.

Additional Lead Stories fact checks related to Trump and the raid at Mar-a-Lago are available here.


  • 2024-05-23T16:32:11Z 2024-05-23T16:32:11Z
    Adds context from news conference by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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