Washington Post: Top FBI Officials Opposed Mar-a-Lago Raid

The Washington Post is reporting that there was a heated debate in the Justice Department over the decision to raid Mar-a-Lago in July 2022. The senior FBI agents objected that they believe that a consensual search was possible without the necessity of a raid. It was main Justice officials who overruled them and insisted on the raid. What is most striking about the account is that FBI agents were raising the very concerns that some of us voiced after the unprecedented raid on the home of a former president.

The Post describes a “tense showdown” a week before the raid. Jay Bratt, Chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES) of the National Security Division, joined other Justice officials to demand a raid. He was accompanied to the FBI by Assistant Attorney General Matt Olsen as well as two counterintelligence officials, George Toscas and Alan E. Kohler Jr.

Toscas previously worked on the Crossfire Hurricane and Clinton email investigations. He reportedly pushed for a raid.

The FBI pushed back hard, according to the Post. Steven M. D’Antuono, then the head of the FBI Washington field office was running the investigation and said that he considered the raid to be unnecessary and overkill. He wanted to arrange a consensual search. He reportedly even refused to conduct the raid without a direct order.

D’Antuono wanted to reach out to Trump’s lawyer, Evan Corcoran, who is a former Justice Department prosecutor to arrange the search. Reportedly, the objections angered Bratt and the meeting became loud and heated.

Notably, the Post reports that 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.” It quotes him as objecting “we are not the presidential records police.”

Finally, D’Antuono reportedly demanded to know if Trump was officially the subject of the criminal investigation. As head of the FBI investigation, that was a telling question. Bratt reportedly replied “What does that matter?”

It mattered a great deal. A number of us expressed surprise later that presidential records were such a focus of a criminal indictment. Presidential record disputes are ordinarily administrative or civil matters. It turns out that the FBI itself shared that unease.

While it took long negotiations, the Trump team had previously turned over boxes of material to the National Archives. In January of that year, they returned 15 boxes of government records, including 184 classified documents consisting of 700 pages. The Trump team had also agreed to give the FBI access to the storage room and complied with directions on adding security to the room.

When classified documents were found by both Biden and Pence after the Trump raid, they were also not subject to search warrants but allowed to have counsel look for additional classified material. In all three cases, the FBI seemed to approach the controversies as collection rather than criminal efforts.

However, Bratt and the other main Justice officials were unwilling to seek a consensual raid and maintained that the Trump team might move to hide or destroy evidence. Such actions would, of course, constitute serious federal crimes.

The fact is that highly classified documents were found at Mar-a-Lago and past representations made by counsel were later challenged by the FBI as false. The Justice Department told the court that it believes that there was an effort to obstruct their investigation.

What is striking about the report is the preference, yet again, for the Justice Department to take the DEFCON 1 option over other alternatives in a matter involving Trump. If D’Antuono was allowed to seek a consensual search, any refusal would have largely blunted any later objections. Yet, the FBI General Counsel Jason Jones (who replaced the controversial James Baker at the Bureau) followed his predecessor’s more aggressive approach.

The report will only deepen the unease over how the Justice Department will handle the classified document controversy. Since the raid, President Joe Biden and former Vice President Michael Pence were both found to have classified material in their private homes. In the case of Biden, some of these documents go back over a decade to his time as a senator and were found in multiple locations from a university center office to his personal library to his garage.

While special counsels are investigating Trump and Biden on the matters, the ultimate decision will rest with Attorney General Merrick Garland who must decide if prosecution is in the public interest. Few people want to see Biden, Pence, and Trump indicted. Indeed, the Justice Department maintains that it cannot indict a sitting president like Biden. To prosecute only Trump for such unlawful possession would cause a public uproar.

Yet, some of us have long said that Trump’s greatest threat was the obstruction allegations out of Mar-a-Lago. One of his lawyers is reportedly cooperating with prosecutors. Those allegations do distinguish the Trump case, but it was also undermined by the Biden and Pence matters. In both cases, the FBI was also told that counsel or staff also conducted searches and found no additional documents before further discoveries were made. That does not mean that Trump’s conduct could not be found to be knowing and more culpable. That case will have to be made with undeniable clarity and evidence.

Garland may face this tough call within the year. Polls indicate a deepening distrust of the government and the Justice Department in particular. A fifth of Americans now view the government as the greatest threat facing the nation.  Fifty percent of Americans only trust the FBI “some of the time” or “hardly ever.” These polls are consistent on roughly half of the country expressing distrust in the FBI. What is truly shocking is that 53% in one poll agreed with the statement that the FBI acts like “Biden’s Gestapo.”

I have previously testified that these views are unfair to the many agents who put their lives at risk to protect us and the rule of law. However, this deep distrust is only worsening as we head into what could prove the most divisive and potentially explosive election in modern history. Of course, Garland could channel Bratt’s reported approach and just say “what does it matter?” But it matters a lot if Garland is concerned about the public accepting that justice rather than politics is being done.

239 thoughts on “Washington Post: Top FBI Officials Opposed Mar-a-Lago Raid”

  1. Remember their names, {Assistant Attorney General Matt Olsen as well as two counterintelligence officials, George Toscas and Alan E. Kohler Jr.} and do not forget their paper pusher assistant AG’s there are at least a dozen or so. All in unison to trample on our constitutional rights because of stifled cases of grandiosity.

  2. I agree with Jonathan that the “Biden’s Gestapo” view of the 53% is “unfair to the many agents who put their lives at risk to protect us and the rule of law.” Unfortunately, it is unfair to expect these “many agents” to disobey orders from their superiors or to resign in protest. These agents have families to support and bills to pay like most of the rest of us – so they cannot afford to put their jobs at risk. The only realistic course for these agents to do as they are told. Nothing will change until Biden’s minions at the top of the DOJ’s chain-of-command are gone or locked-up.

  3. “Jay Bratt, Chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES) of the National Security Division, joined other Justice officials to demand a raid. He was accompanied to the FBI by Assistant Attorney General Matt Olsen as well as two counterintelligence officials, George Toscas and Alan E. Kohler Jr.” (JT)

    Change those to Russian names, and you have the strong-arm tactics of Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev. It is called a “political purge.”

  4. As Garland repeatedly emphasized during his Senate hearing this week, he doesn’t make the decisions, he merely approves them.

    What does that matter? Indeed, what difference at this point does it make?

  5. Republicans and conservatives on the blog complain often about the FBI but the the FBI has been led by a Republican since at least 1978 — see confirmed FBI directors Webster, Sessions, Freeh, Mueller, Comey, and Wray.

    1. LOL — People call themselves all kinds of things for political purposes. Comey called himself a “republican” while humping Obama’s leg like a horny cocker spaniel.

          1. Probably Comey – after all, so many were either humping Obama’s leg or performing journalistic anilingus on him I can imagine it getting a little tiresome at points. Comey could enjoy his turn.

    2. Freeh gave a $100,000 to a Trust for Biden’s grandchildren’s education after the death of his son BEAU. If Republican he must be a RINO.

    3. So, you are noticing that some Republican voters are critical thinkers who criticize Republicans in positions of power. Democrat voters are loyal partisans. They rarely criticize the party’s leaders or its media apparatchiks because doing so may cause public opinion to turn against them and reduce their power.

  6. The warrant itself was both illegal and unconstitutional. Since POTUS has the ultimate authority over all national secrets, the notion that he could break a “law” regarding that REQUIRES the reader to believe that POTUS INTENTIONALLY committed a crime (decided NOT to declassify the documents just so that it would be illegal). It is utter nonsense.

    Then there is the fact that the warrant violates the President’s Constitutional right and protection from “broad warrants” (going well beyond specific materials, etc.).

    The only crimes regarding the Mara Lago search were the conspiracy to violate President Trump’s Constitutional rights by Garland, who knowingly authorized an unconstitutional warrant, and Reinhart, who signed it. Perhaps the FBI goons who carried it out are also complicit.

      1. There has been so much discussion on this issue yet you haven’t learned a thing. For you to make such a stupid comment must mean that you think Trump stole documents after Jan 20. He didn’t but that you think he did makes you sound ignorant.

              1. I guess you have no answer, so I will congratulate you that you have gotten to 1018. Soon you will run out of fingers and toes. Will you need a calculator?

      2. The legal issues are entirely about decisions that were made by Trump while president.

        1. You’re mistaken.

          The allegation of obstruction, for example, is for post-presidency actions.

          1. With you there are always claims. You make them up as you go along. Did you note that your argument for the MAL raid fell on deaf ears with the FBI leaders? Did you note that your Russia Hoax was wrong? You have been wrong so many times one would have thought you learned to close your mouth. At least all those mistakes are entertaining.

          2. There is no obstruction unless every single other legal issue is settled AGAINST Trump.

            Frankly there is no obstruction regardless. You can not obstruct an investigation by sticking rigorously to asserting your own innocence. Even if you are wrong about details – that is still not obstruction.

            Separately, I would note that the federal obstruction statute is both narrow and specific.
            You must find a specific crime under that statute and every single element must be present.

            Failure to cooperate is NOT the same as obstrution of justice.

            Those of you on the left have been playing this stupid game of trying to make OJ into a huge catchall for criminallizing conduct you to do not like.

            As I recall – Barr disposed of OJ in about one sentence in his memo. It took Mueller 200 pages to reach no conclusion.

            Regardless you can not Obstruct Justice by doing something you are otherwise legally entitled to do.

            Several others – including Derschowitz have made the claim that you can not Obstruct Justice without an actual and proven underlying crime.

            I think Derschowitz OUGHT to be correct, but as the law is, he is overly broad. Regardless, without establishing the legitimacy of the alleged underlying crime you make the Republican argument that you are weaponizing government politically.

    1. If the warrant was neither. The real crime was committed by Trump’s Florida Judge – and likely sidepiece.

      1. False – the 11th appelate is so wrong they are completely nuts.

        First – though it is uncommon to challenge the property seized by warrant in a civil case, it is NOT as the 11th appelate concluded improper or out of the jurisdiction of the courts.

        Cannon outlined the constitutiional issues involved, and challenges have occured frequently enough that even ordinary people are aware of them.

        In fact they have been VERY common as the DOJ has become more politicized. The siezure of Cohen’s records was challenged and the courts reviewed those records and denied the government access to those outside the scope of the warrant of protected by other privilege.

        The same happened in cases involving Guiliani, and in fact it has been commonplace as the DOIJ has been politically overreaching and trying to breach a variety of recognized legal priviledges.

        The discussion above is all in the context of ORDINARY law and warrants. And the 11th appelate botched that.

        But there is a specific huge error that the 11th apelate made – and they did so openly.
        ALWAYS the constitution Trump’s the law. No government within the US can write a law that conflicts with the constitution.
        And Article II of the constitution gives the President of the united States numerous powers that no other citizen has, and that congress can not infringe on.

        Regardless of what you FEEL the resolution of questions like – who owns these documents, or are they classified,
        The answers require constitutional consideration – as well as consideration of the law.
        The 11th appelate court absolutely refused to consider whether there were any constitutional issues.
        And they did so at odds with a large body of caselaw to the contrary.
        And they did so without even recognizing that presidents do have article II constitutional powers that must be considered.

        ultimately none of this will matter – The DOJ is playing a losing hand. The needle they must thread to get a conviction for anything is impossible.

        There are dozens of legal and constitutional barriers between DOJ and a conviction.

        Including the fact that even Garland and Biden are unlikely to procede if Getting Trump subjects themselves to possible future criminal liability.

        One of the huge messes of the Biden administration is that it is probably the first time in US history that a president has gone to court (repeatedly) and argued that the power of the presidency is LESS.

        Even Trump defended Obama’s exercises of presidential power in court over issues where Trump had entirely opposite policies.

        It is highly unlikely that Garland, Biden or the SC are going to court to seek to narrow presidential constitutional power in order to “get Trump”.

        1. John, I seriously doubt any charges ever happen regarding the MAL raid. Doing so would mean the documents seized would be viewed in court – something the DOJ most likely doesn’t want to happen, ESPECIALLY if any of them are related to Crossfire Hurricane. Many have suggested the raid only had one purpose; to find out what Trump knows about the activities of government that were illegally pursued against him before and during his presidency. Let’s face it – if they had any evidence of criminality against Trump at all, it would have been leaked months ago. The silence of DOJ/FBI and others is far more telling than any rumors they’re planting in the press.

          1. I agree,
            Though I would add that an additional goal was to recover whatever xfh docs trump had to prevent him from making them public.

            Trump declassified everything collusion delusion related by Executive order TWICE.
            Biden does not want to formally rescind that EO – and arguably he can’t – Declassification is legally one way.
            But almost none of it has been released.

            And the entire Deep State wants to make declassification take as long as the Kennedy Docs.

    2. Re: the (well-intended) FBI rank & file. Niemoeller: First they (the Nazis) came for the Socialists; but, I did nothing. I wasn’t a Socialist. Then, they came for the Trade Unionists; but i wasn’t Trade Unionist. Then, they came for the Jews …

    3. The big deal – which is evidenced by the Biden admin at every step of this is the Effort to circumvent and game the law and constitution.
      NARA could have gone to court against Trump. They had two years to do so.
      They did not.
      Why ?
      They likely would have lost – JW v. NARA
      and a loss in court would have ended this.

      So next DOJ tried to shoehorn this into the J6 Grand Jury and they used th Grand Jury lawyers power to subpeona to try to get arround going to Civil court.

      But that resulted in several problems.
      When the target of a subpeona does not comply – the next step is to go to court to get the subpeona enforced.
      A court in which BOTH sides get to make their arguments.
      With near certainty the Court would have requires Trump to give DOJ ACCESS to pretty much everything.
      There is lots of caselaw on that – but contra the left – a demand is NOT sufficient. DOJ can not legally DEMAND access, they must go to court to get it. Though it is close to pro forma.
      But Access is not posession and you can not subpeona for posession.
      You AGAIN have to go to Civil Court for POSSESSION – and AGAIN – JW v NARA would have reared its ugly head and DOJ would have lost – FOR GOOD.

      So the DOJ escalated to a Warrant, Warrants are acheived through ex-parte processes – they do not require the court to hold a hearing – so no ugly and losing debate over JW v. NARA.
      But there is a legal and ethical problem that in ALL exparte processes the party seeking action by the court is REQUIRED to represent the best arguments of the party who WOULD have opposed the motion had they been allowed to do so.
      So unless the warrant application addresses JW v NARA – the warrant itself is invalid and the DOJ/FBI failed at candor to the court.

      Next DOJ did not count on the possibility that Trump would go public on this, or that he would go to court.

      Regardless, contra those of you on the left – this is not anywhere near a simple issue.
      There are about a dozen different ways that DOJ can lose this.
      And in the end even winning would result in a very high price for the presidency to “get Trump”.
      Several constitutional presidential powers would now be subject to judicial review – to second guessing by the courts.

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