FBI official in charge of Mar-a-Lago raid had strong misgivings about the operation

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A senior FBI official involved in planning the raid of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence told Congress two days ago he had strong reservations about the operation and the investigation.

The House Judiciary released new information about the raid of Mr. Trump’s residence and his indictment that details several deviations from the Justice Department’s usual protocol.

The information was provided to the Committee via a June 7 transcribed interview of Steven D’Antuono, the former Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Details of Mr. D’Antuono’s interview were related to Attorney General Merrick Garland in a letter from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican.

According to the letter, Mr. D’Antuono expressed strong concerns with the department’s pursuit of the raid and noted several unusual aspects in the department’s handling of the case.

The FBI declined a request for comment from The Washington Times. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment. 

Mr. D’Antuono, a 20-year FBI veteran, was concerned that the bureau was going to be “left holding the bag again” regarding the search of Mr. Trump’s residence.

He described several abnormalities in the investigation of Mr. Trump.

First, the Miami Field Office did not conduct the search. Mr. D’Antuono testified that FBI headquarters decided to assign the execution of the search warrant to the Washington Field Office despite the location of the search happening in the region of the Miami Field Office.

Mr. D’Antuono said he had “absolutely no idea” why the decision was made and asked why the Miami Field Office was not spearheading the case.  

He noted that the bureau “learned a lot of stuff from [the] Crossfire Hurricane” probe of Trump-Russia collusion, such as “that the [FBI] Headquarters does not work the investigation, it is supposed to be the field offices working the investigations.”

The FBI’s response to the May 2023 report of Special Counsel John Durham, who investigated the FBI’s pursuit of Trump-Russia collusion, was that investigations should be run out of the field and not from Washington.

Mr. D’Antuono also told the committee that the Justice Department did not assign a U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate the classified documents matter at Mar-a-Lago. He explained that he “didn’t understand why there wasn’t a US Attorney assigned” and “raised this concern a lot with” Department officials because this was out of the ordinary.  

The former FBI official said that he “never got a good answer” and was told that the National Security Division would handle this matter — with Jay Bratt, who leads the department’s counterintelligence division, as the lead prosecutor on the case.

Mr. Bratt is the same department lawyer who allegedly pressured a lawyer representing Walt Nauta, an employee of Mr. Trump who was also indicted for obstructing the classified document investigation.

In a CNN interview Thursday night, former Trump lawyer James Trusty said Mr. Bratt threatened to deep-six an application for a federal judgeship by Mr. Nauta’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward.

Mr. D’Antuono also said that it was not the bureau that first sought to set up a search of Mr. Trump’s residence. He recalled a meeting in which Justice Department officials pressured the FBI to immediately execute the search warrant.

Mr. D’Antuono said he believed that the FBI, before choosing to execute a search warrant, should have asked for consent to search the premises.

Mr. D’Antuono told the committee that he believed either Mr. Garland or FBI Director Christopher Wray decided to seek a search warrant, despite opposition from the line agents working the case, according to Mr. Jordan’s letter.

A federal indictment unsealed Friday alleges Mr. Trump retained nuclear secrets and papers on foreign weapons systems at his Mar-a-Lago estate and waved around military plans to persons without proper clearance in 2021.

The 49-page document also alleges Mr. Trump conspired with Mr. Nauta, to move boxes with sensitive documents around the estate — part of which operates as a social club for outside guests — and give misleading statements to investigators about whether they turned over requested papers to the FBI and grand jury.

The indictment says Mr. Trump stored letters, news clippings and other mementos from his presidency in boxes but mixed in classified documents on weapons capabilities of the U.S. and other countries, information about U.S. nuclear weapons systems and plans for retaliation in case of a military attack.

According to the indictment, Mr. Trump moved the documents to his Florida residence despite no longer being entitled to them since he was no longer president. The documents were stored in various locations at Mar-a-Lago, including a ballroom, bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom and a storage room.

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