Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.
Start your day with National Memo Newsletter
The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning
Federal agents were searching for secret documents pertaining to nuclear weapons among other classified materials when they raided former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home on Monday, according to a new report.
Citing people familiar with the investigation, the Washington Post reported on Thursday night that some of the documents sought by investigators in Trump’s home were related to nuclear and “special access programs,” but didn’t specify if they referred to the U.S. arsenal or another nations' weapons, or whether such documents were found.
“Experts in classified information said the unusual search underscores deep concern among government officials about the types of information they thought could be located at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and potentially in danger of falling into the wrong hands,” the Post noted in its report.
“If that is true, it would suggest that material residing unlawfully at Mar-a-Lago may have been classified at the highest classification level,” a former chief of the Department of Justice’s counterintelligence section, David Laufman, told the Post. “If the FBI and the Department of Justice believed there were top secret materials still at Mar-a-Lago, that would lend itself to greater ‘hair-on-fire’ motivation to recover that material as quickly as possible,” Laufman added.
The bombshell report came just hours after the Justice Department moved to unseal the search warrant used in the raid, and Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed he had personally authorized the government’s request to execute the warrant, following a barrage of criticism stemming from conservative outrage fomented by Trump and many Republicans.
“The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” the DOJ wrote in its motion. “That said, the former President should have an opportunity to respond to this Motion and lodge objections, including with regards to any ‘legitimate privacy interests’ or the potential for other ‘injury’ if these materials are made public.”
Trump, who had so far kept mum about the warrant’s contents, later released a statement backing the “immediate release of those documents,” undercutting the fundraising efforts of top Republicans soliciting for donations before the truth came out.
“Not only will I not oppose the release of documents related to the unAmerican, unwarranted, and unnecessary raid and break-in of my home in Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago, I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents,” Trump wrote. “This unprecedented political weaponization of law enforcement is inappropriate and highly unethical.”
Until now, Republicans had argued that the raid was a political maneuver orchestrated to embarrass Trump and hurt his chances for another run at the White House. The Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee accused the FBI of third-world tyranny.
\u201cThis is what happens in third world countries. \n\nNot the United States. \n\nDoesn\u2019t the FBI have better things to do than harass the former PRESIDENT?\u201d— House Judiciary GOP (@House Judiciary GOP) 1660000467
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) used the raid to disseminate a lie that President Biden’s new bill included funding for 87,000 new IRS agents.
\u201cAfter todays raid on Mar A Lago what do you think the left plans to use those 87,000 new IRS agents for?\u201d— Marco Rubio (@Marco Rubio) 1660003933
The new line of attack peddled by right-wing media figures yielded fatal results when a January 6 rioter attempted to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati office on Thursday afternoon, He was shot and killed several hours after he fled the scene.
Should the new report prove accurate, Republicans may be hard-pressed to explain why highly classified nuclear documents were moved to a private residence at Mar-a-Lago -- and why Trump didn't yield them month ago.
Fox News personalities have repeatedly denounced Monday’s FBI execution of a search warrant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence by claiming that the agency should instead have subpoenaed the documents the former president illegally took from the White House, which the bureau was reportedly seeking. In their telling, Trump is a naif who may have accidentally taken some documents he should not have, but sending federal agents to seize the documents is a massive escalation which revealed that President Joe Biden’s administration is targeting a political opponent for partisan gain.
“All they needed to do was issue a simple subpoena, and that would have mandated that if there's anything left, you turn it over,” Sean Hannity asserted on his radio show on Wednesday.
“If Trump is not allowed to keep all this stuff, fine,” host Jesse Watters said on Fox that night. “Get a subpoena, he will give it back. It's not like Trump won't cooperate.”
There’s just one problem. Trump previously did get a subpoena seeking the documents, according to a new report, and the FBI only escalated to asking a judge for a search warrant after it became clear that Trump would not, in fact, cooperate.
The New York Times reported on Thursday:
Former President Donald J. Trump received a subpoena this spring in search of documents that federal investigators believed he had failed to turn over earlier in the year, when he returned boxes of material he had improperly taken with him upon moving out of the White House, three people familiar with the matter said.
The existence of the subpoena helps to flesh out the sequence of events that led to the search of Mr. Trump’s Florida home on Monday by F.B.I. agents seeking classified material they believed might still be there, even after efforts by the National Archives and the Justice Department to ensure that it had been returned.
While Fox is trying to defend Trump by suggesting that the FBI search came out of the blue, the timeline of events suggests the government continued escalating its investigative methods because it believed Trump continued to illegally retain documents that were “so sensitive in nature, and related to national security, that the Justice Department had to act."
- The National Archives first reached out to Trump’s team about missing White House documents in May 2021 and spent months negotiating their voluntary return.
- In January 2022, the agency was finally able to recover 15 boxes of White House documents from Mar-a-Lago. In February, it informed the Justice Department that it had determined some of the records were classified.
- Then in the spring, a grand jury issued a subpoena seeking documents that were still at Trump’s residence.
- On Monday, two months after the subpoena was issued, the FBI sent in agents to get the documents.
Here are some more Fox pundits who said the government should have gotten a subpoena for the documents rather than sending the FBI to get them.
- Charlie Gasparino: “It looks like one of the worst abuses of justice that we've seen in a long time. I mean literally, they could have asked for the stuff, they could have subpoenaed the stuff but they came with FBI agents, guns out.” [Tucker Carlson Tonight, 8/10/22]
- Byron York: “No subpoena for the documents. They didn't use any less intrusive method to get the documents and, bang, there's 30 FBI Agents at Mar-a-Lago. We don't know why that happened.” [America’s Newsroom, 8/11/22]
- Lawrence Jones: “Why didn't they just subpoena the president to go through the documents? Why the raid, why the show of force?” [Fox & Friends, 8/9/22]
- Will Cain: “Last night's rate of the former president's home had nothing to do with the retention of classified materials. You can handle missing records with a subpoena. You don't come kicking the doors and end up blowing open safes.” [Tucker Carlson Tonight, 8/9/22]
It was already laughable for the outlet to accuse others of excessive escalation while responding to a court-ordered search by calling it a historic “attack on this republic” by “lawless” “Gestapo”-like agents who are “at war with the American people.” It also turns out to be false.
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.
- FBI searches Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate | PBS NewsHour ›
- F.B.I. Searches Trump's Mar-a-Lago Residence in Florida - The New ... ›
- Reported Trump FBI informant 'irrelevant' due to former president's ... ›
- FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago related to nuclear documents ... ›
- Trump received subpoena for classified records this spring | Fox News ›