Mar-a-Lago Raid Revelations Leave Former FBI Agents Stunned

Several former FBI agents, prosecutors, and CIA officials have reacted with shock to reports the federal bureau was "afraid" to investigate Donald Trump's handling of classified materials.

According to a report by The Washington Post, the FBI was hesitant to raid the former president's Mar-a-Lago residence in August 2022 to recover long-sought-after sensitive materials and instead wanted Trump to voluntarily hand them over.

The report, citing unnamed sources, said that some FBI agents in the Washington field office wanted to close the classified material investigation in June 2022 following an assurance from Trump's legal team that all documents that needed to be handed to the National Archives and Records Administration in January 2021 had been returned.

Republicans have long raised concerns about the "weaponization" of the federal government under the Biden administration and have created a special panel to look into such issues. The latest report, critics say, suggests the opposite is true: that Trump's attacks had "chilled" attempts to investigate him.

Even amid evidence that Trump remained in possession of classified documents at his Florida home, senior FBI officials feared raiding the property would be seen as too aggressive a move, and instead wanted to ask Trump's permission to search his property, per the newspaper report.

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Local law enforcement officers are seen in front of the home of former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on August 9, 2022. According to a report by The Washington Post, the FBI was hesitant to raid the former president's Mar-a-Lago residence in August 2022 to recover long-sought-after sensitive materials and instead wanted Trump to voluntarily hand them over. Getty Images

Steven M. D'Antuono, then the head of the FBI's Washington field office, is said to have expressed concern about the optics of agents with the "FBI" marking on their jackets raiding a former president's home.

The Post added that some FBI agents were wary about conducting a raid at Mar-a-Lago as they were "simply afraid" of the fallout and how it could affect their careers.

One official reportedly described it as "the hangover of Crossfire Hurricane"—a reference to the FBI investigation into dismissed allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 Election.

In a series of tweets, former FBI agent Peter Strzok described the claims as "astonishing" and said it showed that Trump had "successfully chilled" attempts to investigate the former president with his frequent attacks against the bureau.

"In 20 years of working cases involving classified information, I never—not once— encountered prosecutors who wanted to get a search warrant and reluctant - even refusing! - agents. The other way around, sure," Strzok tweeted.

"The article points to a damning fear in the FBI stemming from political fear, not from fact. 'The FBI agents' caution also was rooted in the fact that mistakes in prior probes of Hillary Clinton...had proved damaging to the FBI' Really? Name one. I'll wait.

"Trump, Barr, Durham, and others successfully chilled the FBI's willingness to investigate anything related to Trump. The FBI handled Trump with unprecedented kid gloves, afraid to follow the facts for fear of political blowback, delaying the investigation for months," Strzok added.

Former FBI special agent Asha Marie Rangappa said the report shows that the FBI "has a problem, and it's coming from inside the house."

While sharing the article, Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer, tweeted: "This extensive piece once again makes clear a simple fact: the FBI, traumatized from the Trump era assaults on it, treated Trump with kid gloves."

Former federal prosecutor Michael Stern called the allegations "disturbing."

"It tells us what we feared," he added, "Trump keeps getting away with it because law enforcement keeps letting him."

John Sipher, a national security expert and ex-CIA official, added the report shows that "Trump's bullying and attacks on public servants have had an effect. Agents are afraid to do their job."

For years, Trump has accused investigations and probes into him as politically motivated "witch hunts." The former president has also suggested the classified documents search at his home is a sign that the Biden administration has "weaponized" the federal government.

During the June 2022 FBI visit to his Florida home, Trump's legal team is alleged to have "explicitly prohibited" federal agents from looking inside a storage room at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump's lawyers then drafted and signed a statement assuring federal investigators that all the classified materials at Mar-a-Lago had been returned.

Last August, FBI agents raided Trump's Florida home, seizing more than 100 classified and top secret documents, including some found in the storage room.

When asked about the last revelations at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he could not comment specifically on the classified materials investigation, but added "there is often a robust discussion and it's encouraged among investigators and prosecutors."

Newsweek has contacted the FBI and the Department of Justice for comment.