Did Steven D’Antuono Make It Easier for Trump to Steal 47 Classified Documents?

There are two things that are not mentioned in this long explanation of how the FBI refused, for months, to treat Donald Trump like anyone else suspected of hoarding highly classified information.

First, WaPo doesn’t mention that Trump got an injunction that lasted from shortly after the search, September 5, until December 12, over three weeks after Jack Smith was appointed.

Because the WaPo doesn’t mention that fact — doesn’t mention that DOJ was prevented from using classified evidence to investigate Trump’s crimes for several weeks in September, doesn’t mention that DOJ was prevented from using unclassified evidence to investigate Trump’s crimes for 98 days — WaPo envisions any damage FBI did by resisting taking investigative steps against Trump as a shortening of the time when DOJ could charge Trump.

Some inside the probe argued the infighting delayed the search by months, ultimately reducing the time prosecutors had to reach a decision on possible charges. Others contend the discussions were necessary to ensure the investigation proceeded on the surest footing, enabling officials to gather more evidence before they executed the search, people familiar with the dynamics said.

In November, before prosecutors had finished their work and decided whether to charge Trump or anyone else, he announced his campaign to retake the White House in 2024, leading Garland to appoint a special counsel, Jack Smith, to complete the investigation.


Meanwhile, in late October, amid news reports that Trump was looking to soon announce another bid for the presidency, Garland told aides he was seriously contemplating appointing a special counsel to take over the investigation, as well as a separate criminal probe looking at Trump and his allies’ effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election — a rare procedure designed to ensure public faith in fair investigations.

On Nov. 15, Trump took the stage in the Mar-a-Lago ballroom — at the same property where FBI agents had searched three months earlier — and announced that he would run for president again in 2024. The Justice Department’s national security division leaders who had pushed the FBI to be more aggressive pursuing Trump did not finish the investigation or reach a charging decision before a new chief took over.

On Nov. 18, Garland sent word to the prosecutors working on both of the probes to come to Justice Department headquarters for a meeting that morning. He wanted to privately inform them that he planned later that day to appoint a special counsel. Garland told them they could choose their next steps, but he hoped they would join the special counsel’s team for the good of the two investigations, people familiar with the conversation said.

Even that risk assumes Trump’s announcement was determined by anything other than making it harder for DOJ to charge him; he was discussing announcing his run still earlier, before he got the injunction. But the risk ignores the opportunity that FBI’s delay provided Trump and others last summer.

The other thing WaPo doesn’t mention is the real damage the FBI, led by the now-retired head of the Washington Field Office, Steven D’Antuono, may have done by stalling: FBI may have made it impossible to recover all the documents Trump took.

Well before the injunction on using unclassified documents in the investigation was lifted, multiple outlets revealed that DOJ suspected Trump still had classified documents. Trump’s lawyers have paid investigators to search some — but not all — of Trump’s properties since. And for months, Trump’s lawyers publicly lied about the results, publicly lied to hide that an aide moved new documents with classification marks to Mar-a-Lago after the August 8 search by the FBI.

There are still 47 empty classified document folders, found in two different searches of Trump’s property, that remain unexplained.

Perhaps those folders were not yet empty in May 2022, when DOJ first proposed doing a surprise search of Mar-a-Lago.

But FBI agents viewed a Mar-a-Lago search in May as premature and combative, especially given that it involved raiding the home of a former president. That spring, top officials at FBI headquarters met with prosecutors to review the strength of evidence that could be used to justify a surprise search, according to two people familiar with their work.

Perhaps those folders were not yet empty in June 2022, after Evan Corcoran raised more suspicions on June 3, when Jay Bratt came to pick up a folder of classified documents, the same day that Trump departed for Bedminster.

Perhaps those folders were not yet empty when DOJ served another subpoena to obtain the surveillance footage showing Walt Nauta moving boxes to evade the search.

Some FBI field agents then argued to prosecutors that they were inclined to believe Trump and his team had delivered everything the government sought to protect and said the bureau should close down its criminal investigation, according to some people familiar with the discussions.

But they said national security prosecutors pushed back and instead urged FBI agents to gather more evidence by conducting follow-up interviews with witnesses and obtaining Mar-a-Lago surveillance video from the Trump Organization.

The government sought surveillance video footage by subpoena in late June. It showed someone moving boxes from the area where records had been stored, not long after Trump was put on notice to return all such records, according to people familiar with the probe.

Perhaps those folders were not yet empty when D’Antuono — who was appointed head of the DC field office in October 2020 and who retired last November; his replacement was named in late December — continued to stall shortly before the search.

Against that backdrop, Bratt and other senior national security prosecutors, including Assistant Attorney General Matt Olsen and George Toscas, a top counterintelligence official, met about a week before the Aug. 8 raid with FBI agents on their turf, inside an FBI conference room.

The prosecutors brought with them a draft search warrant and argued that the FBI had no other choice but to search Mar-a-Lago as soon as practically possible, according to people with knowledge of the meeting. Prosecutors said the search was the only safe way to recover an untold number of sensitive government records that witnesses had said were still on the property.

Steven M. D’Antuono, then the head of the FBI Washington field office, which was running the investigation, was adamant the FBI should not do a surprise search, according to the people.

D’Antuono said he would agree to lead such a raid only if he were ordered to, according to two of the people. The two other people said D’Antuono did not refuse to do the search but argued that it should be a consensual search agreed to by Trump’s legal team.

We have no reason to believe that DOJ got all the documents back and plenty of reason to believe it didn’t. Trump’s lawyers are still dicking around, offering ridiculous explanations for why a new empty folder showed up sometime between August and December.

What we do know is that Steven D’Antuono treated Trump differently than FBI would have treated any other person suspected of stealing classified documents, he treated Trump differently because he had been trained to understand that Trump could ruin his career if he dared investigate Trump.

And by treating Trump differently, D’Antuono may have given Trump the opportunity to steal another 47 documents.

113 replies
  1. Leu2500 says:

    Interesting that the Twitter trolls & useful idiots all blame Garland for delay, when once again it’s actually the FBI. Which is headed by a Trump nominee.

    • Egyptian Cat says:

      It’s just so that we don’t forget the fact that Trump will probably never be prosecuted. I wish I could be more optimistic, but this is getting ridiculous.

      Biden should have cleaned house at the FBI on January 20th, 2021.

      • bmaz says:

        First off, you can’t just “clean house” at the FBI. Secondly, what appears “ridiculous” to you is exactly the norm for large conspiracy cases. It almost always takes 3-4 years to prosecute the critical defendants at the top of the food chain, and you need airtight evidence to do it. The actual justice system and DOJ does not work off of internet outrage time frames.

        • Egyptian Cat says:

          No need to be rude.

          Replacing Christopher Wray would have been a good idea.

          I’m not stupid. I know how long these cases take, but it sure looks to me like time is a good excuse to figure out how to save face while figuring out which excuses to make while backing away from prosecuting a former president.

          Stolen documents, by the way, are still small potatoes when compared to inciting acts of treason. We don’t need to wait three-plus years for an indictment for Jan. 6, do we? Meanwhile, that orange fuckhead can campaign as much as he likes and entertain fantasies of being president again.

          • Rayne says:

            Oh for fuck’s sake stop using the term treason when referring to insurrection, rebellion, and sedition. You completely undermine your point with such misuse.

            And the missing documents are just as big a problem as attempted sedition if the documents pose a national security threat.

            The orange twatwaffle can campaign — that’s how this democracy works. But he’s going to have to deal with multiple ongoing investigations into his finances while adding exposure to new campaign finance investigations going forward.

              • bmaz says:

                No, he did NOT “incite treasonous acts”. That is just ignorant. Do you even read here before spewing your BS?

                Also, too, please learn the definition of “treason” before you ever glibly throw that term around here again.

              • Rayne says:

                You are really thick in the head about this. If you mean treacherous or traitorous, say that. You’ve already been told that the word treason has a specific legal definition, both in the Constitution and in U.S. Code, and treasonous is a modifier based on the word treason.

                This is your second warning.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Meow. Your notion of “rude” is not shared by many here, nor your colloquial but inaccurate use of “treason.”

          • bmaz says:

            Rude?? I was not rude to you. You do not want to see me “rude”. You are getting there though.

            Oh, by the way, did you use the “treason” word? Then I know you are an ill informed bombastic internet outrage commenter. Don’t do that in this space.

            • punaise says:

              Goodbye, Rude-y Wednesday
              Who could hang a name on you?
              When you change with every new day
              Still, we’re gonna cross you

            • Egyptian Cat says:

              Whose “space” is this? Yours?

              Learn how to write comments that don’t bully others. You look ridiculous.

              • bmaz says:

                Mind your own business, or get out. You have not been “bullied” you little poor snowflake.

                • Egyptian Cat says:

                  You impotent little bully. You can dish it out but you can’t take it. You didn’t like “treason,” and you can’t tolerate different opinions, so enjoy yourself on your little internet throne. You can make your silly threats all you like. FYI, treasonous acts include insurrection, conspiracy against the proceedings of Congress, threats and attempts to overthrow the government. I am surprised they let bullies run loose on this website, especially those who think they can decide what words people can use.

                  [Moderator’s Note: If you’re going to ignore moderators and throw ad hominems, you’re on thin ice. /~Rayne]

                  • Shadowalker says:

                    Treason is defined in the Constitution and its use is reserved for when the nation is at war with another country. Which is why they came up with the Seditious Conspiracy statute to cover similar activity (on the face) that does not conform to that standard.

                    Bmaz wasn’t being rude.

          • timbozone says:

            Rude it was not.

            This is a nudgy site with standards for the most part. I’m guilty of not doing my work sometimes. But if you are given a friendly nudge and call it rude, not sure you will do well here.

  2. SaltinWound says:

    D’Antuono said he would only lead a surprise raid if he were ordered to? That seems like it would be easy to solve. Who would the order come from? Wray? Garland?

    • Fraud Guy says:

      Did he want to be able to say he was only “following orders” in order to keep his job if Trump was reelected, because that defense works so well with historically, and with Trump.

      • John Colvin says:

        Given that he retired in 2022, it is not clear that he wanted to continue to work for the FBI into 2025. So his conduct may not have been motivated by a self-preservation instinct.

        • Theodora30 says:

          I really don’t understand the explanation that these agents were afraid following the law and the instructions from there superiors would ruin their careers. It would make sense if Trump were still in office but not now. Is that they expect (want?) Trump to be re-elected or are they protecting their post-FBI careers in MAGA land.

      • SaltinWound says:

        Right. If D’Antuono were enthusiastic, they’d need a warrant. If he were resistant and ordered to conduct the raid they’d need a warrant. I’m trying to figure out why D’Antuono wanting to be ordered was considered a hurdle.

        • Gerard Plourde says:

          I think that the question it raises is why his vocal dissent and claim that he’d need a direct order to execute the search. Normally if a prosecutor obtains a search warrant and turns it over to law enforcement, the expectation on both sides is that the search be executed expeditiously. To say he wouldn’t act without an explicit order from a superior is unusual, to say the least.

          • Rugger_9 says:

            This ‘reluctance’ is quite odd, especially when considering the exigent nature regarding the status/location of the documents in question. Note also that there were already examples of M-a-L deception regarding production and retrieval, so ignorance can’t really be a valid claim either. Imagine if such a process was demanded for one of the drug lords, we’d never have any of them in jail.

            However, at this point we are observing the effects of TFG politicizing the FBI already full of his sympathizers (ask HRC) with AG Barr’s influence still operational. That they ran scared doesn’t surprise me when accounting for this background.

            Peter Strzok (who had never heard of such a thing by the FBI side) has a case open regarding his termination, and one wonders whether this revelation of toady bias will be leveraged by his attorney.

            • Theodora30 says:

              I would bet that Strzok will definitely use this in his lawsuit. In fact he has already tweeted about this example inappropriate behavior of FBI agents that did not result in firing. In Strzok’s initial filing of his lawsuit he specifically points out the fact that the agents in the NY FBI field office who had openly criticized Hillary Clinton and leaked information to Trump’s people were not fired.. (Page 9 #26)

          • Rugger_9 says:

            I’m also reminded of the ‘reluctance’ of then-GSA head Emily Murphy to begin the transition process because she claimed she wasn’t sure that the election was finished. This delay helped to give the J6 coup plotters space in government to proceed with their plans.

            • Savage Librarian says:

              Likewise with Vought at OMB. See my comments and link below if you’d like more details.

        • Purple Martin says:

          “I’m trying to figure out why D’Antuono wanting to be ordered was considered a hurdle.”

          By the time he said that, it wasn’t. A search warrant was obtained and the search conducted within a week. The issue EW describes was all the delay and foot-dragging—which was considerable—D’Antuono managed to orchestrate in the months leading up to that.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          If nothing else, I think the article makes it pretty clear that D’Antuono (whom I assume to be a source) wanted to be perceived by Trump and the Trump team as resisting any effort that would challenge DJT’s special authority. I’m also guessing that D’Antuono (along with Wray) wants it publicly known that the FBI is not the “woke” Garland hit machine it’s been depicted to be. Hence this story, now.

          • Savage Librarian says:

            I actually think that Wray may have made a good personnel decision here when he put a new Special Agent in Charge a little over a year ago. From what I’ve seen, she seems very experienced and professional. That’s exactly the kind of person we need to handle people like Stephen Friend who I mentioned in my comments below.

            • Ginevra diBenci says:

              I agree. I have seen Wray as a decent if unprepossessing man stuck in an utterly thankless role; anyone in charge of such an enormous, high-profile, and politicized workforce would face headwinds. Hence I was shocked to see Jennifer Rubin’s takedown of him in the Post.

  3. greengiant says:

    EW alludes to the list of possible sources for this story include D’Antuono, the gang of 8, and team Trump. Seems to me media warfare is not just dog whistle adrenaline pumps and hangouts. Another part is shake the tree and see what falls out ala Barrett’s 2016 call to McCabe regading that laptop. Hope people learned a lesson from McCabe. Clearly team Trump would like to know what DOJ has on them.

  4. jecojeco says:

    If GOP leaders are willing to criminally steal the Presidency with fake electors, if GOP leaders support trump’s failed coup, if GOP pols (Marge) support dissolution of the nation. if GOP laden FBI sandbags and sabotages investion of of these criminal activities, if GOP laden Secret Service “loses” critical Jan6 communications…then are we wrong to conclude that trump’s malignant GOP will do anything to hold on to power and that the fidelity of US law enforcement to their oaths is as conditional as MTG’s?

    If US law enforcement are willing agents of an increasingly minority political party’s desperate attempts to hold power at any cost then where are we, especially with regard to Secret Service and their protection of a “Democratic” President and VP? Even Mike Pence doubted their loyalty on Jan6. The Secret Service should have been purged following the Jan6 Comm revelations.

    • bmaz says:

      “Purged” in favor of what, exactly? How are you going to magically fix it all in the face of legitimate civil service employment protections? What government officials are you going to leave unprotected while you go down this rabbit hole? Same goes for the FBI. Lashing out and demanding “purges” in favor of people fitting your ideological mold might sound good in your head, but it adds nothing substantive.

      • jecojeco says:

        There needs to be more than a shoulder shrug in response to wholesale defiance and destruction of possible evidence by Secret Service. There needs to be recognition of how loaded US law enforcement has become with personnel whose loyalty seems conditional, look how easily the trump appointed IRS head corrupted that service. trump had fertile ground to work in with his corruption of US law enforcement. Firing people for not upholding their oaths of office isn’t retaliatory These people have been given a lot of trust & power and many don’t seem to want to do the job properly. The FBI seems to “belong” to one political party, there are trickle down effects of always having a GOP head. US judges have become increasingly overtly political and US law enforcement has been way ahead of that curve, just not as visible.

        • John Colvin says:

          The unsupported accusation that (Trump appointed) IRS Commissioner Rettig “corrupted” the IRS is beyond the pale. I have known few people (and fewer tax attorneys) who are as ethical and upstanding as Chuck Rettig. Moreover, the rank and file of the IRS are famously difficult to corrupt. If there had been even a hint of any impropriety, I’m certain we would have heard of it.

          • bmaz says:

            The IRS has, however, been systematically disparaged and gutted as to funding and capability.

            “Corrupted” is an allegation that has become all to easy to throw around as a substitute for things we don’t like. A previous commenter proclaimed the FBI has been “corrupted from top to bottom”. Eh, no. The Bureau has always had its share of bad actors, especially at the top, But “top to bottom”? No. My local field office seems quite competent, and most seem to be. There has never been a FBI Director that was not a Republican. Most law enforcement agencies historically trend quite conservative, especially at the top. Personally, however, I blanche at blanket allegations of “corruption” as to either the IRS or FBI.

            • David F. Snyder says:

              Ditto re blanket generalizations about organizations or groups of people. Rarely, if ever, are they true. That said, assholes show up in all sorts of places.

            • John Colvin says:

              Agreed. The blame for this falls squarely at the feet of Congress. This is one area where “starve the beast” thinking was successful for years.

    • Rayne says:

      Retaliatory firing of federal employees is unlawful, which is what a purge without an independent investigation would look like.

      Might want to ask former FBI agent Peter Strozk about retaliatory firing.

      • Fraud Guy says:

        It’s frustrating that while the Democrats tend to be the “ask permission” party, the Republicans are not the “beg forgiveness”, but more of the “forced to compensate while ignoring it ever happened” party.

      • Notme2020 says:

        Getting rid of Christopher Wray is a start!

        [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please advise if this is your new permanent username; it’s your third one so far since your first comment back in January. Thanks. /~Rayne]

      • JohnJJSchmidt says:

        What they usually do is just move the problem person someplace they can’t do damage, another department or even location. As long as it isn’t a demotion, it isn’t that hard to do within Civil Service rules.

        • bmaz says:

          Dear GWPA, until you stop belligerently refusing to honor the requests of this site to comply with our screen name/handle requirements, your comments will never see the light of day. You are an interloper that has been here for effectively less than a year and 41 comments. Maybe reconsider how you deal with us.

  5. Savage Librarian says:

    Also, too, someone else who seems to have a similar mindset as Steven D’Antuono is Stephen Friend. It has been reported that after he was suspended for refusing to do his job, he
    took a position with Center for Renewing America. Steve Friend also has a book coming out in the summer, published by Post Hill Press (distributed by S & S) which caters to conservative Christians.

    Center for Renewing America info:


  6. A Better Mitch says:

    This is pure fact free speculation, but what about connections between d’Antuono and McGonigal? It seems likely we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg regarding Russian influence on FBI and broader intel. community. Why assume averting Trump’s wrath was his motivation?

    • Norskieflamethrower says:

      “Why assume averting Trump’s wrath was his motivation?”

      Why indeed!!!

      [FYI – SECOND NOTICE– For your personal security I have reverted your username on this comment to the one you’ve used most often instead of a RL name. Let me know if you are changing your username permanently or not, otherwise your comments will be treated as sockpuppeting. /~Rayne]

    • PieIsDamnGood says:

      Averting Trump’s wrath applied to the entire FBI workforce, while Russia is unlikely to try to compromise the entire FBI workforce. It’s generally a good idea to assume the simpler explanation is correct until proven otherwise.

  7. rattlemullet says:

    So regarding the 47 empty folders, surely the content of these folders are documented and known, correct?

  8. DonnaB says:

    That article is something, especially the part about being afraid of losing their jobs. Fear gets people to acquiesce without the need to actually issue edicts. It also reads like someone has an agenda, but it isn’t clear to me what that agenda is

    My question is why is DOJ apparently only looking for paper? We know at least one document was scanned. Doesn’t it seem logical to check electronic devices?

    • Peterr says:

      The search was authorized because the DOJhad reason to believe that Trump had retained documents and artifacts — pieces of paper and various items — that by right are the property of the National Archives and Record Administration. They presented the evidence that led them to this conclusion to a judge, who agreed to issue the warrant.

      They didn’t go to the judge because they wanted to do a general search of computers or other electronic devices. They wrote their request narrowly, because that was what they were able to demonstrate probable cause.

      You can’t search for something not on the warrant.

      • DonnaB says:

        Ok, I get that. IANAL but it seems obvious in this day and age, that where there is paper there are also scanners. At any rate, I hope they now have probable cause to go after electronics.

        • Egyptian Cat says:

          Trump could have scanned those documents long ago, if he’d thought of it, but I don’t think it’s likely that a guy who flushed documents down toilets ever realized that they were scanned before he ever got them.

          We’ll never know if Trump had them scanned, but he’s not savvy when it comes to things like that. The crime in question remains that of keeping papers that belong to the archives, lying about having them and refusing to give them back. Papers. Actual papers. Anyone in the WH could have scanned, copied and uploaded classified papers. But Trump walked off with boxes full of them. Originals. With the WH seal on them, and original signatures on original letterhead, not copies that could be faked. These originals could have been very valuable to Trump.

        • Rayne says:

          Don’t get hung up on scanners except when they are explicitly addressed in the investigation.

          Every cell phone with a camera is a scanner. Now think about your questions so far, and what the DOJ has been doing wrt mobile devices in other investigations which may mirror what they’re doing in this case but not in public view.

          • StellaBlue says:

            This is in essence the problem. Documents are still missing and on top of that we have no idea how many of the stolen documents have been digitized and “fallen” into the wrong hands. Investigating would require a broad search warrant.

  9. Datnotdat says:

    You make an important point in response to jecojeco, but I don’t think you engage with the meat of his comment. He’s calling attention to cadres of people who have taken an oath to uphold our constitution. Now there is an (over) abundance of circumstantial evidence that individuals within these cadres are not honoring their oaths. This does not call for a purge. (An unfortunate and loaded choice of words on jecojeco’s part) What it does call for is investigation and where warranted, punishment. All of this is countenanced in longstanding American jurisprudence. No “purge” is needed.

    • jecojeco says:

      1) purge rid (someone or something) of an unwanted quality, condition, or feeling.

      I meant purge in this sense: Ridding US law enforcement of the unwanted quality/condition of allowing employees political bias to interfere with fair, effective performance of their duties not a Stalinist purge of all. But I do feel forceful action is required.

      The Secret Service needs to be like Caesar’s wife, above reproach, and they haven’t been, trump turned them into his courtesans. trump’s hiring of Tony Ornato was a step in his co-opting Secret Service, they rolled on that and it paid dividends hamstringing Jan6 investigation.

      • Katherine Williams says:

        They could place suspect employees on paid Administrative Leave while being investigated & cleared, or indicted. Expensive way to clean house, but the house must be clean. Allowing vermin to gnaw away at the structure is more expensive in the long run.

        • jecojeco says:

          Hi Katherine,
          Secret Service agents don’t have a right to work security or any other sensitive details, they can be assigned to credit card fraud in Fargo etc while their situations are being investigated.
          One rotten apple spoils the barrel and I don’t think Tony Ornato is the only bad apple, just the most prominent. There have been articles about federal agents agents social media chat groups being trumpian hotbeds.

          • Peterr says:

            This sounds all to much like what Karl Rove, Monica Goodling, and Kyle Sampson tried with the dismissal of various US Attorneys for a lack of sufficient political loyalty. As Sampson’s email showed:

            [In March 2005 Sampson] came up with a checklist. He rated each of the U.S. Attorneys with criteria that appeared to value political allegiance as much as job performance. He recommended retaining ‘strong U.S. Attorneys who have … exhibited loyalty to the President and Attorney General.’ He suggested ‘removing weak U.S. Attorneys who have … chafed against Administration initiatives’.

            I didn’t like the presumption of guilt or political loyalty tests back then when the GOP was doing it, and I would not like it any better if a Democrat was doing it.

            If you or anyone else has proof of criminal misconduct, that’s one thing. Mouthing off against the boss of your boss of your boss, on your own time, is something else. (Some might say that’s as American as apply pie.)

  10. Drew in Bronx says:

    Seems like the person’s perspective that is most represented in the WaPo article is Steven d’Antuono. He retired in December (maybe it was completed in January). So it’s likely that he is the primary source for the story. If he wants to mend fences with Republicans and maybe get security jobs where the people doing the hiring lean Republican, it’s in his interest to make sure everyone knows that he resisted and resisted strongly having a search of Trump’s property.

    Since he was head of the field office in charge of the investigation, refusing to do the search “unless ordered” is a serious bureaucratic play–the affidavit for the warrant is prepared & sworn by an agent who would be under his command. Obviously the order was obtained, but that was further delay. Also it’s more than likely that this bit of not-quite-insubordination is closely related to his “choice” to retire.

  11. Sue 'em Queequeg says:

    By the way, everyone, don’t forget that the FBI’s action at MaL was not a “search”, it was a “raid”. I know this must be correct because WaPo used that word in the hed and about 15 times in the article. /s

      • viget says:

        Haha! I thought the same. I was disappointed my phone didn’t have an animated GIF with that commercial, it would’ve been perfect to text my friends on August 8th.

  12. Tom R. says:

    For me, the most salient message in the WaPo article is this: His policy of intimidation and vicious vengeance has been largely successful. The Durham investigation and the attacks on Comey, Strzok, McCabe, Freeman, etc. have had the intended effect, namely corrupting the FBI from top to bottom. He made them afraid to investigate him.

    The FBI showed a “sensitivity” toward him that they certainly never showed toward Hillary. Some of this is 𝘢 𝘱𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘳𝘪 political bias, but some of it is due to intimidation.

    • Tom R. says:

      As has been endlessly discussed, there are reasons why the various investigations are taking so long. Good reasons and appalling reasons. Bias and intimidation are in the latter category.

      The sad thing is, appeasement is a losing proposition.
      — If the FBI does their job properly, it makes it less likely that he will return to a position where he can intimidate and corrupt them. This is the win/win outcome.
      — Conversely, if they screw up the investigations, he will likely return to power and make their lives miserable. Arguing that they didn’t investigate him as much as they could have will not save them. This is the lose/lose outcome: The FBI loses. The constitution loses. Civilization loses.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yes, absolutely. And not just to Trump, but to the Proud Boys and Russia.

      I think this story should invite reconsideration to a few other steps in the Jan6 investigation, most notably the treatment of Brandon Straka.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Lawrence O’Donnell went off on an extended rant, incredulous over the claim that “some in the FBI were inclined to believe” that TFG had fully complied with the subpoena for the return of documents. I agree, but his constant repetition of the phrase ventured into Rachel Maddow territory.

    There are two things most people inside the Beltway know about Donald Trump. One, he has no good faith and has never fully complied with the law or legal process. Not doing that is a favorite sport. Two, he is vicious and vindictive as hell. Everyone in the FBI knew, for example, how Trump fired James Comey, down to the bit about firing him when he was on gubmint business in California, and that he was livid that Comey wasn’t made to walk home, but was allowed to fly back to DC on his gubmint jet.

    So, no, it’s not credible that a senior FBI field agent believed Trump had fully complied with that subpoena. Nor do I believe that respect for a former president was a sufficient rational not to search Mar-a-Lago. The more likely reason was that they were afraid of reprisals for enforcing the law against Trump.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      Since Trump is no longer President, what possible retaliation could he instigate against an FBI agent ? I am struggling to envision agents clutching their pearls and quivering at the thought of the washed up bloviator being mean to them as justification for foot dragging.

      This smells as fishy as unrefrigerated tuna salad.

      • Peterr says:

        It’s probably not so much about Trump himself, but about the culture of the FBI workplace. If you think your boss is a True Believer in the Big Steal, or a bunch of your coworkers, it might make you think twice about rocking the boat. Assignments that lead to promotions suddenly go to others, and all the trash jobs land on you . . .

        • Scott_in_MI says:

          Add in the possibility that Trump will be re-elected in 2024. Not a given, by any means, but certainly not out of the question.

      • Shadowalker says:

        “ what possible retaliation could he instigate against an FBI agent ? ”
        Retaliation from the GOP in both houses. They get away with a lot of it because they make the rules.

    • Cal Lawrence says:

      Afraid of reprisals, or they’re just hardcore Trump supporters who think he should be above the law? I suspect it’s the latter.

        • Savage Librarian says:

          Loyalty, fear, stupidity, indifference, negligence, disdain, denial, dishonesty, laziness, ideology, back scratching, ambition, exhaustion…

          • bmaz says:

            I’m sorry, is there ever anything nice that could be attributed to any FBI agent(s), or are they all just universally scum?

            • David F. Snyder says:

              Yeah, generalizations stink. Nobody’s perfect. Still, I would like to learn from you what other motivations D’Antuono might have had for a delay. As Robert Fripp says: “Arethose my only options?”

            • Savage Librarian says:

              Oh, I definitely said good things about two FBI agents in my response to Ginevra above (3/1 @ 7:17). I was just giving some potential options for your comment above where you referred to “a few other things”. I guess you don’t want to elaborate.

              In the compromised workplace that I found myself in though, I’d say that fear was the dominant motivator for most people. But there were some people who were motivated by some of the other things I listed.

            • Ginevra diBenci says:

              For decades my image of the FBI was burnished by the fact that they hired one of the absolute finest human beings I had ever known. Until then I had no idea they wanted people like us, X-Files notwithstanding.

              Then 2016 happened, and the Bureau revealed that it too could sink to just another mean and paranoid bureaucracy that destroys its best talent–different only in the power it held (and holds) to shape world events.

              Great people still work there. I pray that the system no longer punishes them for their ability.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Lawrence O’Donnell was quite clear, for example, that the good comes with the bad. The two are concurrent, if not intertwined, because conduct is personal as well as institutional. J. Edgar Hoover’s litany of violent excesses – notably, his evil campaign against MLK, the first (post-WWI) and second (post-WWII) Red Scares – accompanied many good things individual members of the FBI have done and now do.

  14. biff murphy says:

    “There are still 47 empty classified document folders, found in two different searches of Trump’s property, that remain unexplained”

    Oh That…
    That was explained as a light on the clock that bothers the tfg so he puts empty classified folders over it.
    Nothing to it.

  15. harpie says:

    Peter STRZOK wrote about this WaPo piece [I haven’t read it, yet.]:

    Time to cut the leaks Where the answer is always the question, cui bono? https://petestrzok.substack.com/p/time-to-cut-the-leaks

    […] But a careful reading of the Post’s reporting (insofar as the reporting is complete) reveals this was not so much a conflict between DOJ and the FBI as much as a conflict between DOJ and FBI headquarters, on the one hand, and the management of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, on the other. [Full disclosure, I worked with several of the prosecutors and agents described in the article] This post is going to do such a close reading, so get ready for – or prepare to skip the bulk of this post about – some forensic disassembly of the Post article. […]

  16. Hannah Smith says:

    The problem is that DOJ has to protect its illegitimate claim to absolute immunity, which is derived from its original purely ministerial role. By appropriating both executive functions (investigating complaints) AND judicial functions (negotiating pleas), prosecutors are now in violation of the principle of the separation of powers. This is a situation that could be corrected by SCOTUS, but the DOJ has made sure that no relevant cases make it that far (see Pottowattomie vs. McGhee) or Congress, which can legislate how prosecutors perform and establish an appeal or review process. So, until either SCOTUS or Congress weighs in, DOJ needs to protect absolute immunity by making sure certain entities are not upset with them. In that interest, Barr was content to share absolute immunity with Trump until it was incontrovertible that Trump was out. Trump’s need is different. He needs to continue the charade to escape the consequences of criminal behavior. He obviously never understood that, according to Justice Kennedy, “the rule of law binds government and all its officials.”

    • bmaz says:

      “By appropriating both executive functions (investigating complaints) AND judicial functions (negotiating pleas), prosecutors are now in violation of the principle of the separation of powers.”

      Lol, no, that is ridiculous. But welcome to Emptywheel.

      • Rayne says:

        ~smh~ Clearly Hannah need to read United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974).

        4. Neither the doctrine of separation of powers nor the generalized need for confidentiality of high-level communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances. See, e.g., 5 U. S. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 5 U. S. 177; Baker v. Carr, 369 U. S. 186, 369 U. S. 211. Absent a claim of need to protect military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets, the confidentiality of [Page 418 U. S. 685]

        Presidential communications is not significantly diminished by producing material for a criminal trial under the protected conditions of in camera inspection, and any absolute executive privilege under Art. II of the Constitution would plainly conflict with the function of the courts under the Constitution. Pp. 418 U. S. 703-707.

        In short, SCOTUS weighed in already and offered a unanimous decision.

        • bmaz says:

          Also, too, Bordenkircher, and other cases, which clearly held that plea bargaining is the province of the prosecution. It is in no way a “judicial function”.

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