One of the senior FBI officials in charge of effectuating the unprecedented raid of former President Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago last summer told House investigators in a recent transcribed interview that he disagreed with how the raid was handled and worried that when all is said and done, the Bureau would be “left holding the bag again.”
This revelation was among many included in a letter House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland Friday demanding documents and communications related to meetings between FBI and Justice Department officials prior to the execution of the search warrant on Mar-a-Lago.
In the letter, Jordan told the attorney general that the Committee had recently obtained additional information about the search warrant that reinforced their “grave concerns that your reported actions are nothing more than a politically motivated prosecution.”
The new information was provided to the committee by Steven D’Antuono, former Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office (WFO). D’Antuono has had over two decades of FBI experience and was the former head of the Detroit FBI field office, which executed the Whitmer “fednapping” operation.
On December 2, 2022, weeks after House Judiciary Committee Republicans announced an investigation into recent “operations and actions” at the FBI, D’Antuono announced his retirement.
In a transcribed interview with committee members on June 7, 2023, the former G-man expressed “strong concerns” with how the Mar-a-Lago raid was handled.
Jordan said D’Antuono disagreed with the Justice Department’s approach to the raid and “noted his frustration that the FBI was going to be ‘left holding the bag again’ with respect to the search of President Trump’s residence.”
During his transcribed interview, D’Antuono described several abnormalities he had identified regarding the DOJ’s actions in pursuing its investigation of President Trump:
1. The Miami Field Office did not conduct the search. Mr. D’Antuono testified that FBI headquarters made the decision to assign the execution of the search warrant to the Washington Field Office (WFO) despite the location of the search occurring in the territory of the FBI’s Miami Field Office. Mr. D’Antuono stated that he had “absolutely no idea” why this decision was made and questioned why the Miami Field Office was not
taking the lead on this matter.4 Mr. D’Antuono stated that the FBI “learned a lot of stuff from [the] Crossfire Hurricane” investigation—notably “that the [FBI] Headquarters does not work the investigation, it is supposed to be the field offices working the investigations.”5 Mr. D’Antuono indicated that his “concern is that [the] DOJ was not following the same principles . . . .”
In fact, as recently as May 2023, in response to the report of Special Counsel Durham, the FBI asserted that “investigations should be run out of the Field” and not from Washington, D.C.
2. The Department did not assign a U.S. Attorney’s Office to the matter. According to Mr. D’Antuono, it was unusual to not have a U.S. Attorney assigned to an investigative matter, especially a matter of this magnitude. 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. Mr. D’Antuono indicated that he “never got a good answer” and was told that the National Security Division would be handling 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 improperly pressured a lawyer representing an employee of President Trump.” Mr. D’Antuono again noted his concern regarding lessons learned from Crossfire Hurricane, that the Justice Department was not following the principle that “Headquarters does not work the investigation . . . .”
3. The FBI did not first seek consent to effectuate the search. Mr. D’Antuono recounted a meeting between FBI and Department officials during which the Department assertively pushed for the FBI to promptly execute the search warrant.12 Based upon his over-20-year tenure at the FBI, Mr. D’Antuono testified that he believed that the FBI, prior to resorting to a search warrant, should have sought consent to search the premises. He testified that this outcome would have been “the best thing for all parties” involved— “[f]or the FBI, for former President Trump, and for the country . . . .” Mr. D’Antuono indicated a belief that either you or Director Christopher Wray made the decision to seek a search warrant, despite opposition from the line agents working this case in the WFO.
Following that meeting, Mr. D’Antuono described how Justice Department counterintelligence official George Toscas—who also reportedly worked on the “Crossfire Hurricane and Clinton email investigations”15—told him that FBI agents were ready to execute the warrant. Mr. D’Antuono pushed back on the Department for trying to unilaterally allocate FBI resources.
4. The FBI refused to wait for President Trump’s attorney to be present before executing the search. Mr. D’Antuono testified that the FBI sought to exclude President Trump’s attorney from the search, a move with which Mr. D’Antuono disagreed.18 Mr. D’Antuono believed that the FBI should have worked with the attorney to get consent to search the residence prior to seeking a warrant for the search. Mr. D’Antuono believes that “there was a good likelihood that [they] could have gotten consent . . . .”
In his letter, Jordan pointed out that the Department is willing to indict former President Donald Trump, “despite declining to indict former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her mishandling of classified information and failing to indict President Biden for his mishandling of classified information.”
You can view the Trump indictment here.
“The indictment creates, at the minimum, a serious appearance of a double standard and a miscarriage of justice—an impression that is only strengthened by allegations that a Biden Justice Department lawyer “inappropriately sought to pressure” a Trump-affiliated lawyer with the prospect of a judgeship,” Jordan wrote. [More on that story here.]
The Ohio congressman also noted that the Committee had previously requested information and documents related to the FBI’s raid of President Trump’s home, and gotten no response.
“In light of this testimony and the Department’s failure to respond to our previous oversight requests, we write to renew and supplement our request for documents necessary for our oversight,” Jordan wrote.. Specifically, the Committee is asking for the following information:
1. All documents and communications referring or relating to meetings between FBI
and Justice Department officials prior to the execution of the search warrant on
President Trump’s private residence;
2. All documents and communications referring or relating to the execution of a search
warrant on President Trump’s private residence, including those sent or received by
the following FBI and Justice Department Officials:
a. Paul Abbate,
b. Matthew Olsen,
c. Jay Bratt,
d. George Toscas,
e. Steven D’Antuono; and
3. All documents and communications between or among Washington Field Office
agents and employees and the U.S. Secret Service about a potential search of
President Trump’s residence.
The Chairman requested that the information be provided “as soon as possible but not later than 5:00 p.m. on June 16, 2023.”