The DOJ Argued. “We are not the presidential records police”
The Washington Post has an extended recapitulation of the argument between the FBI and Biden’s DOJ over whether to raid Mar-a-Lago. How much you should believe it? Well as much as you should believe any Washington Post article fed by anonymous sources with their own agenda. But it does contain an extraordinary moment as the FBI and the DOJ gather to debate whether a raid should happen.
By mid-July, the prosecutors were eager for the FBI to scour the premises of Mar-a-Lago. They argued that the probable cause for a search warrant was more than solid, and the likelihood of finding classified records and evidence of obstruction was high, according to the four people.
But the prosecutors learned FBI agents were still loath to conduct a surprise search. They also heard from top FBI officials that some agents were simply afraid: They worried taking aggressive steps investigating Trump could blemish or even end their careers, according to some people with knowledge of the discussions. One official dubbed it “the hangover of Crossfire Hurricane,” a reference to the FBI investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible connections to the Trump campaign, the people said. As president, Trump repeatedly targeted some FBI officials involved in the Russia case.
Against that backdrop, Bratt and other senior national security prosecutors, including Assistant Attorney General Matt Olsen and George Toscas, a top counterintelligence official, met about a week before the Aug. 8 raid with FBI agents on their turf, inside an FBI conference room.
The prosecutors brought with them a draft search warrant and argued that the FBI had no other choice but to search Mar-a-Lago as soon as practically possible, according to people with knowledge of the meeting. Prosecutors said the search was the only safe way to recover an untold number of sensitive government records that witnesses had said were still on the property.
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. The two other people said D’Antuono did not refuse to do the search but argued that it should be a consensual search agreed to by Trump’s legal team. He repeatedly urged that the FBI instead seek to persuade Corcoran to agree to a consensual search of the property, said all four of the people.
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. He reminded them of the new footage suggesting Trump or his aides could be concealing classified records at the Florida club.
D’Antuono also questioned why the search would target presidential records as well as classified records, particularly because the May subpoena had only sought the latter.
“We are not the presidential records police,” D’Antuono said, according to people familiar with the exchange.
Later, D’Antuono asked if Trump was officially the subject of the criminal investigation.
“What does that matter?” Bratt replied, according to the people. Bratt said the most important fact was that highly sensitive government records probably remained at Mar-a-Lago and could be destroyed or spirited away if the FBI did not recover them soon.
That’s exactly why D’Antuono said that the FBI isn’t the records police. Bratt’s “what does that matter” line is really extraordinary. The FBI correctly notes that they shouldn’t be conducting a raid unless there’s a criminal investigation, but Democrats in the DOJ continue to conduct fishing expeditions in the hopes of generating a criminal investigation.
Bratt’s “What does that matter?” really points to the authoritarian culture of lawlessness that has overtaken the DOJ when it acts at the behest of the Democrats.
Olsen, the assistant attorney general for national security, appealed to senior officials in FBI headquarters to push their agents to conduct the raid. Abbate handed down his instructions a day later: The Washington field office led by D’Antuono would execute the surprise search.
Olsen, Obama’s man.