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Behind lost fight for ‘consensual’ Mar-a-Lago raid: FBI ‘prepared to engage with FPOTUS and USSS’

Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, June 17, 2024 Contract With Our Readers

While the Biden team and its legacy media allies continue to insist that sending armed FBI agents into Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, 2022 with deadly force authority was nothing new, critics are noting how there was nothing ordinary about the precedent-shattering raid in which more than 30 agents descended on former President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida estate, potentially creating a dangerous situation with the armed Secret Service agents on site.

“There was zero reason to create an unnecessary, even one in a thousand chance, of a blue-on-blue situation with firearms,” former Secret Service agent and political commentator Dan Bongino said on his podcast. “The FBI, DOJ, and management of the Secret Service effed this up royally.”

Court documents and FBI congressional testimony back up Bongino's assessment. Trump was cooperative, telling the Department of Justice: “Whatever you need, just let us know.” Some key FBI officials repeatedly called for a "consensual" raid but were rebuffed by higher ups.

Bongino faulted the Secret Service for permitting armed agents into Mar-a-Lago: “What the hell was the Secret Service management thinking, letting the FBI in there with guns? It was a protected facility.”

In the operations order for the raid, known as an FD-888, agents were advised to wear “unmarked polo or collared shirts” and keep their badges, credentials, and equipment “concealed.”

Agents were also told to be equipped with “Standard Issue Weapons, Ammo, [and] Handcuffs.” One team was told to bring “medium and large sized bolt cutters.” A lock-picking team would be on site to open the doors of guest rooms if Mar-a-Lago staff did not cooperate. (It is unclear why an investigator would have probable cause to believe Trump stored secrets in the guest rooms of the resort area of the estate.)

Another section of the order addressed a possible response if the Secret Service attempted to impede the search or if Trump showed up that day. (Trump, at the time, was residing at his Bedminster, New Jersey, home for the summer.)

“Should FPOTUS [Former President of the United States] arrive at MAL [Mar-a-Lago], FBI [agents] will be prepared to engage with FPOTUS and USSS [U.S. Secret Service] Security Team,” the order read.

In a partially redacted portion of the plan, agents were advised to “engage” with an unidentified Secret Service contact “should USSS provide resistance or interfere with FBI timeline or accesses.”

Trump even overruled his own attorney and allowed DOJ official Jay Bratt to view the area where dozens of boxes of presidential and personal materials were stored.

Key FBI officials had resisted the unprecedented raid and the manner in which it was conducted.

The main resistance came from Steven D’Antuono, head of the Washington FBI field office at the time. D’Antuono told the House Judiciary Committee in a 2023 interview that he “put his foot down” and continued to argue that the search should be consensual.

Despite being thwarted by his higher-ups at the FBI, D’Antuono said he wanted to notify Trump’s attorney at the time, Evan Corcoran, before the FBI team arrived at Mar-a-Lago; Bratt refused the request even though D’Antuono said, “We usually go to the attorneys first” prior to executing any search. The FBI’s initial plan also indicated that Trump’s attorney would be notified on Aug. 8 and “request collaboration and assistance.” But that did not happen.

Because the raid involved a former president and leading contender for the Republican nomination for president at the time, critics say FBI Director Christopher Wray should have considered “additional steps” and a “departure from the norm.”

“This type of event has never happened to a full time Protectee of the USSS,” Charles Butt, an 18-year special agent of the Secret Service now retired, told RealClearInvestigations. “All of this never should have happened in a reasonable environment.”

Writing for RealClearInvestigations on June 13, Julie Kelly noted another oddity: "The FBI disclosed that a prosecutor for the U.S. attorney’s office in southern Florida was present during the search; prosecutors generally do not participate in raids, as they instead handle charging decisions after evidence is collected as a result of a search. Further, the prosecutor would lose immunity if the search was declared unlawful. That appears to be a possibility."

The warrant allowed FBI agents to search Trump’s office as well as “all storage rooms, and all other rooms or areas within the premises used or available to be used by FPOTUS and his staff and in which boxes or documents could be stored.”

Some records related to the search remain under seal, including grand jury testimony of a Secret Service agent. Judge Aileen Cannon previously indicated she would allow for the unsealing of grand jury materials if necessary, so more revelations as to how the raid was planned and conducted could be forthcoming.

Kelly noted that "documents filed on June 11 add more context to the execution of the raid. It appears the Secret Service point of contact was only informed of the warrant roughly two hours before agents arrived at Mar-a-Lago. Contrary to what the DOJ attempts to portray as a 'cooperative' effort between the two law enforcement agencies, FBI agents used a bolt cutter to open the lock of the storage area where boxes were housed rather than wait for a key."

Kelly continued: "Agents mishandled files from the start; (special counsel Jack) Smith recently admitted the sequence of evidence inside the boxes is not in the original order and that some alleged classified records do not match the cover sheet used as a placeholder to indicate where the classified record was found.

"Which leads to this question: Was the unprecedented and potentially dangerous raid of the former president’s home only the beginning of what now appears to be a botched case?"

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