Trump Claims FBI Was Authorized To ‘Shoot’ Him During Jack Smith’s Search — G-Men Insist They Played Mar-a-Lago by the Book

The Palm Beach manse’s bedrooms also take center stage, as an unsealed ruling discloses there were classified documents in the 45th president’s quarters.

AP/Rebecca Blackwell, file
President Trump arrives at Mar-a-Lago, November 18, 2022, at Palm Beach, Florida. AP/Rebecca Blackwell, file

The contest between President Trump and Special Counsel Jack Smith over whether the search for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago was legally valid appears set to define the next stage of Judge Aileen Cannon’s classified documents case, which is delayed but hardly dormant.  

Two versions of the August 2022 search of the Palm Beach manse came into focus on Tuesday with the unsealing of dueling briefs from Messrs. Smith and Trump. The special counsel argues that this case has been “investigated and prosecuted in full compliance with all applicable constitutional provisions, statutes, rules, regulations, and policies.”

Mr. Trump, though, calls the search “unconstitutional.” He cites, among other alleged defects, the FBI’s “Operations Order” that governed that Mar-a-Lago search and permitted the use of “deadly force” and “Standard Issue Weapon[s].” On Tuesday night, he sent out a fundraising email with the subject line: “BIDEN’S DOJ WAS AUTHORIZED TO SHOOT ME.” 

The 45th president argues that the omission from an affidavit underpinning the warrant of a debate with the DOJ and FBI about whether to search the premises without Mr. Trump’s consent renders the raid unconstitutional. Mr. Trump was not at Mar-a-Lago when the search was conducted, a state of affairs known to the FBI, which also instructed its agents to wear “unmarked polo or collared shirts.”

The FBI, though, responds in a statement that its G-Men “followed standard protocol in this search as we do for all search warrants, which includes a standard policy statement limiting the use of deadly force. No one ordered additional steps to be taken and there was no departure from the norm in this matter.”

Last year, a former FBI assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Steven D’Antuono, testified to the House Judiciary Committee about the search. He shared: “We made sure we interacted with the Secret Service to make sure we could get into Mar-a-Lago with no issues … everything that was reported about helicopters and a hundred people descending on, like a ‘Die Hard’ movie, was completely untrue.”

Mr. D’Antuono also testified that “for the FBI, for former President Trump, and for the country, the best scenario would have been consent” to the search. That is what happened with Vice President Pence and President Biden. While Mr. Trump alleges that Mr. Smith “failed to disclose that the FBI had taken the position … that it was not necessary to execute a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago,” Attorney General Garland personally approved the search.

Mr. Trump’s broadside against the search also includes the argument that it was overly broad, in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s command that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” He points to the canvassing of his then-minor son Barron’s and wife Melania’s bedroom suites. Photographs were snapped.

The argument that bedrooms should have been off-limits, though, is undermined by the disclosure that classified documents were found in Mr. Trump’s own bedroom, which is separate from Mrs. Trump’s. In a ruling unsealed on Tuesday, a federal district court judge at the District of Columbia, Beryl Howell, writes that  “notably, no excuse is provided as to how the former president could miss the classified-marked documents found in his own bedroom at Mar-a-Lago.”

In an 87-page ruling, Judge Howell, who presided over many of the January 6 criminal cases, explains that Mr. Trump turned over a box containing four classified documents to the FBI in January 2023, four months after agents searched Mar-a-Lago. She adds in a footnote that an adviser to Mr. Trump who was affiliated with a political action committee, Save America, scanned those documents onto a personal laptop in 2021. 

Judge Howell was adjudicating whether Mr. Smith had shown enough evidence of criminality to compel the testimony of one of Mr. Trump’s attorneys. She found that he had, and Mr. Corcoran is set to be a key witness in the case. It will be Judge Cannon, though, who decides when — and if —  that happens.

The New York Sun

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