It seems the DOJ has decided to leak an explanation of their decision to use a search warrant in this case. Newsweek just published an exclusive report based on anonymous DOJ sources which claims the FBI had a confidential source at Mar-a-Lago, one who informed them that Trump was hiding documents and even specified where they could be found.
The raid on Mar-a-Lago was based largely on information from an FBI confidential human source, one who was able to identify what classified documents former President Trump was still hiding and even the location of those documents, two senior government officials told Newsweek.
Before we go any further, remember that the FBI apparently brought along a safe-cracker who opened Trump’s safe. Presumably that suggests they were told by their confidential source that there were documents hidden in the safe. But by all accounts there was nothing in the safe and the FBI didn’t take anything from it. Does that mean the confidential source got it wrong?
The story also says the raid was intentionally timed to occur when Trump would not be there. Apparently the FBI thought this would lower the profile of the raid. But the DOJ source admits this didn’t work as planned. His explanation here is basically we’re not politically corrupt just dumb.
FBI decision-makers in Washington and Miami thought that denying the former president a photo opportunity or a platform from which to grandstand (or to attempt to thwart the raid) would lower the profile of the event, says one of the sources, a senior Justice Department official who is a 30-year veteran of the FBI.
The effort to keep the raid low-key failed: instead, it prompted a furious response from GOP leaders and Trump supporters. “What a spectacular backfire,” says the Justice official.
“I know that there is much speculation out there that this is political persecution, but it is really the best and the worst of the bureaucracy in action,” the official says. “They wanted to punctuate the fact that this was a routine law enforcement action, stripped of any political overtones, and yet [they] got exactly the opposite.”
The story also appears to settle some speculation that has been circulating since Monday. According to Newsweek’s sources, this was purely about documents sought by the National Archives and “had nothing to do with the January 6 investigation.” In other words, this wasn’t a 9-dimensional-chess attempt to gather documents about Jan. 6 which could be used for future prosecution. It wasn’t about the specific contents of the documents at all. The story also describes a grand jury which concluded several months ago that there was evidence Trump had violated the Presidential Records Act.
In late April, the source says, a federal grand jury began deliberating whether there was a violation of the Presidential Records Act or whether President Trump unlawfully possessed national security information. Through the grand jury process, the National Archives provided federal prosecutors with copies of the documents received from former President Trump in January 2022. The grand jury concluded that there had been a violation of the law, according to the Justice Department source.
But it was only a week or so ago that a US attorney decided to go to a Florida judge to seek a search warrant. The judge agreed and the FBI began planning the search for a time when Trump would not be there. The story points to the FBI’s focus on a few specific areas as proof they knew where to look. But curiously this story doesn’t mention the June meeting between investigators and Trump’s lawyers when they looked through some of the documents kept in a basement storage room. In other words, the DOJ didn’t need a secret source to know the documents were kept in that particular room because they’d seen them there themselves and, at the time, not taken them.
The story concludes with another big revelation. It claims that AG Merrick Garland was being updated on the National Archives investigation and knew about the grand jury but did not approve the search Monday. Newsweek’s source claims Garland had “no prior knowledge” of the time of the raid. Instead it was FBI Director Christopher Wray who approved the search. Finally, the source adds, “It really is a case of the Bureau misreading the impact.”
This is a lot of new information but I think the big take-aways are that this had nothing to do with Jan. 6 and that these DOJ sources are now feeling a lot of pressure, enough that they are a) trying to explain themselves and b) blaming the “spectacular backfire” on the FBI and the US Attorney while trying to insulate AG Garland from the blowback.