Months of disputes between Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents over how to recover classified documents from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and residence led to a tense showdown near the end of July last year. Prosecutors argued that new evidence suggested Trump was knowingly concealing secret documents at his Palm Beach, Fla., home and urged the FBI to conduct a surprise raid. Two senior FBI officials who would be in charge of leading the search resisted the plan as too combative and proposed instead to seek Trump’s permission to search his property, reports the Washington Post. Prosecutors prevailed in that dispute, one of several clashes in a tense tug of war between two arms of the Justice Department over how aggressively to pursue a criminal investigation of a former president. The FBI conducted an unprecedented raid on Aug. 8, recovering more than 100 classified items, among them a document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities.
Starting in May, FBI agents had sought to slow the probe, urging caution given its extraordinary sensitivity. Some of those agents wanted to shutter the criminal investigation altogether in early June, after Trump’s legal team asserted a diligent search had been conducted and all classified records had been turned over. The idea of closing the probe was not something considered by FBI leadership and would not have been approved, a senior law enforcement official said. The Post's account reveals for the first time the degree of tension among law enforcement officials and behind-the-scenes deliberations as they wrestled with a national security case that has potentially far-reaching political consequences. The disagreements stemmed in large part from worries among officials that whatever steps they took in investigating a former president would face intense scrutiny and second-guessing by people inside and outside the government.