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DOJ, FBI Clashed Over August 2022 Plans to Raid Mar-a-Lago for Suspected Classified Files - Report

© AP Photo / Steve HelberFILE - This is an aerial view of President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, Aug. 10, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla.
FILE - This is an aerial view of President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, Aug. 10, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.03.2023
A report in US media on Wednesday alleges that a small group of FBI agents opposed the US Justice Department’s plan to launch an unannounced raid of Mar-a-Lago, former US President Donald Trump’s private estate, last August, believing they could trust Trump’s lawyer, a former federal prosecutor.
According to the report, their differences began to show themselves in May 2022, several months after the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asked the DOJ to see if Trump had more of the classified records from his administration that it was missing.
Presidents leaving the White House are supposed to surrender their files to NARA, and the agency had already pestered Trump for months to return missing files, after which he sent the agency 15 boxes of documents in January 2022.

However, NARA suspected the 184 classified documents in those 15 boxes were not all of them, and by May, the FBI was reasonably certain they were right.

But when you strike at a king, you must kill him, as the saying goes, and the DOJ needed to be absolutely sure whatever course they took against Trump would leave the bureau beyond reproach. That’s where the differences arose: one group of FBI officials dissented from the DOJ’s plan to launch an unannounced raid on Mar-a-Lago, believing that negotiating with Trump could get them what they wanted without the fuss of an operation.
According to the report, the dissenting agents gummed up the works beginning in June; the raid was launched on August 8.
FILE - This is an aerial view of President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, Aug. 10, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.12.2022
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The FBI agents saw a search of the estate as premature and combative, prompting the DOJ’s lead prosecutor to take a different route and subpoena Trump for classified files. That led to a meeting with Trump’s lawyer, Evan Corcoran, who in June passed them 38 more files and a letter signed by another of Trump’s lawyers, Christina Bobb, stating that the premises had been searched by them and no more were found.
While some agents wanted to close up shop at that point, others thought more diligence was needed, and sought to verify Corcoran’s claim by conducting more interviews and obtaining surveillance footage from the estate. That evidence showed aides moving around boxes identical to those used to deliver NARA its requested files in January - which the DOJ took as a smoking gun that more files were still in there.
Still, it took several more weeks for the raid to go ahead. At a stormy meeting at the FBI’s Washington, DC, offices, DOJ leaders produced a draft search warrant and argued the FBI had no choice but to conduct the raid, since it offered the best chance of getting ahold of all the missing files. Steven M. D’Antuono, then the head of the FBI Washington field office, reportedly refused to do so unless ordered.
The report indicates that some agents were stricken with “the hangover of Crossfire Hurricane,” a 2016 operation to monitor then-candidate Trump’s presidential campaign over fears it was in contact with the Russian government. After Trump became president, that operation backfired on the bureau, tarnishing its reputation and ruining the careers of several FBI agents involved. They worried about the damage it would do to them if the home of a former president were raided by agents wearing FBI jackets.
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However, the other side were more worried about the damage it could do to US national security if the files were not recovered while they still could be, and decided it would reflect worse on the bureau if they failed to act. Their arguments won out, and the raid was carried out on August 8.

As a result of the raid, the FBI found more than 100 classified records, 18 of them so top-secret that seasoned national security investigators lacked the necessary clearance to even view them, as they required cabinet-level approval. They reportedly included documents about Iran’s nuclear program and about China.
The warrant cited several lines of US federal law, including the 1917 Espionage Act and laws on the mishandling of documents and obstruction of justice. However, no charges have yet been filed, although work on doing so is reportedly ongoing, with Attorney General Merrick Garland appointing a new counsel to continue doing so in November.
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