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A stunning report in Wednesday’s Washington Post details the tensions between FBI agents and Justice Department attorneys over the August raid of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, Mar-a-Lago.
FBI officials were leery of the plan, and pleaded for a more measured approach, while DOJ prosecutors were hell-bent on a surprise incursion to search for classified documents:
Prosecutors argued that new evidence suggested Trump was knowingly concealing secret documents at his Palm Beach, Fla., home and urged the FBI to conduct a surprise raid at the property. But two senior FBI officials who would be in charge of leading the search resisted the plan as too combative and proposed instead to seek Trump’s permission to search his property, according to the four people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a sensitive investigation.
Conservatives were infuriated by the raid, arguing that it showed just how politically biased Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department had become. At least some top FBI officials apparently agreed.
📢EXCLUSIVE: Raid on Trump's home was result of a bitter tug-of-war within DOJ. Prosecutors pushed for it, fearing Trump had concealed classified records; FBI agents resisted it, fearing a misstep w exPrez.
me w @DevlinBarrett @PerryStein @byaaroncdavis https://t.co/K6iT65RC4i
— Carol Leonnig (@CarolLeonnig) March 1, 2023
In the end, the DOJ prevailed and Garland “personally approved” the August 8. 2022, raid, where agents recovered over 100 classified documents. The question remains, however—was there a better way to get them back from Trump? FBI agents thought so:
On one side, federal prosecutors in the department’s national security division advocated aggressive ways to secure some of the country’s most closely guarded secrets, which they feared Trump was intentionally hiding at Mar-a-Lago; on the other, FBI agents in the Washington field office urged more caution with such a high-profile matter, recommending they take a cooperative rather than confrontational approach.
Interestingly, this story comes the day after FBI Director Christopher Wray admitted that his agency thinks the COVID virus came from the Wuhan lab:
Between this leak to @washingtonpost on top FBI opposition to the Trump Mar a Lago radio and yesterday’s @foxnews admission the FBI believes covid came from a Chinese lab, the FBI appears set on distancing itself from Joe Biden’s administration. What comes next?
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) March 1, 2023
While this is a solid report from the leftist WaPo, they couldn’t resist getting in a little dig at those who have questioned the Justice Department:
The FBI agents’ caution also was rooted in the fact that mistakes in prior probes of Hillary Clinton and Trump had proved damaging to the FBI, and the cases subjected the bureau to sustained public attacks from partisans, the people said. [Emphasis mine.]
What nonsense. The FBI was criticized by both sides during those debacles—Hillary almost had a coronary in 2016 over then-FBI Director James Comey’s handling of her illegal server which contained classified information. Yet, her home was never raided, and she never faced charges. It doesn’t take a partisan to point out that there seem to be two systems of justice at play here.
The tensions between prosecutors and FBI agents simmered all summer and came to a head in a meeting about a week before the raid
Steven M. D’Antuono, then the head of the FBI Washington field office, which was running the investigation, was adamant the FBI should not do a surprise search, according to the people.
D’Antuono said he would agree to lead such a raid only if he were ordered to, according to two of the people.
But Jay Bratt, the prosecutor leading the department’s counterespionage work, wasn’t swayed:
Tempers ran high in the meeting. Bratt raised his voice at times and stressed to the FBI agents that the time for trusting Trump and his lawyer was over, some of the people said.
As we all know, the FBI’s concerns fell on deaf ears, and the raid went ahead as planned. The fact that there was such internal division within the DOJ shows that the surprise offensive was always politicized and heavy-handed. Merrick Garland has repeatedly shown in his term that he values politics over justice, and he will continue to act that way till he’s called to account.
Happily, he’s facing the music Wednesday:
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