Aug 14, 2022
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into an "unprecedented" number of threats against its staff and facilities in the wake of last week's search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago palace, including some against the pair of agents identified in an unredacted version of the warrant that was leaked before the court officially unsealed redacted records, CNNreported Saturday, citing an unnamed law enforcement source.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on Friday issued a joint intelligence bulletin warning that violent threats against federal law enforcement, judicial, and government personnel and property "are occurring primarily online and across multiple platforms, including social media sites, web forums, video sharing platforms, and image boards."
The menacing messages "include a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI Headquarters" and "general calls for 'civil war' and 'armed rebellion,'" the agencies warned.
On Friday, the names of the two FBI agents who signed the warrant used to search Trump's resort circulated online after far-right outlet Breitbartpublished a copy of the document leaked to them before federal magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart publicly shared paperwork that protected the agents' identities.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed on Friday afternoon that Trump would not oppose its motion to release the search warrant and inventory of collected materials, but at that point the unredacted version had already begun to spread online, leading many to accuse the ex-president of leaking the document--and endangering the lives of police officers he claims to support.
"Officials at the FBI headquarters division responsible for the security of personnel also have observed efforts by online actors to publicly post--also known as 'doxxing'--the personal information of other bureau employees, including those involved in the search of Trump's residence," CNN reported, citing a law enforcement source.
"Unlike other officers in the U.S. intelligence community who operate undercover, the overwhelming majority of FBI employees operate in true name, the source noted, which makes those named in court filings pertaining to the search particularly vulnerable to nefarious online actors," the news outlet added.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who said Thursday that he "personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter," has been the subject of death threats, with internet users writing that he "needs to be assassinated" and "kill all feds." According to CNN, the biography and contact information of Reinhart, who signed the warrant on August 5, "was wiped from a Florida court's website after he too became the target of violent threats."
The warrant authorizing the FBI's Monday night search of Mar-a-Lago shows that the DOJ is investigating Trump for potential violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice, and unlawful removal of government records.
The search by the FBI, led by Trump appointee Christopher Wray, immediately set off a firestorm of backlash among Trump loyalists on social media, with many anonymous and some well-known reactionaries calling for "civil war" on Twitter, patriots.win, and elsewhere.
Ricky Shiffer, a Trump supporter with suspected ties to a far-right extremist group and an unspecified connection to the January 6 insurrection, was shot and killed by police on Thursday after an hourslong standoff. Shiffer, wielding an AR-15 and a nail gun, allegedly attempted to breach the FBI's Cincinnati office and fled to a nearby field when he was unsuccessful.
Taking a cue from Trump, who immediately disparaged the search as a politically motivated "witch hunt" meant to derail his electoral ambitions, several Fox News talking heads and many congressional Republicans spent much of past week trying to delegitimize the FBI's actions--often relying on racist put-downs of the "third world"--before any details were known.
Since the Washington Postrevealed late Thursday that the DOJ was seeking to recover classified documents related to nuclear weapons from Trump's Palm Beach mansion, some GOP lawmakers have attempted to pull back, but other right-wingers have pivoted to Trump's latest defenses.
Following the publication of the Post's bombshell report, which Trump called a "hoax," the ex-president on Friday denied that he took documents related to nuclear weapons to Mar-a-Lago, accusing the FBI of "planting information." Trump's attorney, Christine Bobbs, verified the FBI's inventory, however, undermining the former president's allegation of malfeasance.
Trump also claimed in a statement posted to his so-called Truth Social platform on Friday that former President Barack Obama "kept 33 million pages of documents," including "lots" of classified ones that "pertained to nuclear"--a deflection that has been thoroughly debunked by the National Archives and Records Administration.
In addition, Trump said that the material he took to Florida "was all declassified," even though legal experts question whether he used the formal process required and say that it is unlikely to have any bearing on the charges brought by the DOJ.
The FBI "could have had it anytime they wanted," Trump argued. "ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ASK."
But as the New York Timesreported Thursday, the DOJ sent Trump a subpoena for the documents in question this spring and only asked a federal judge to approve a search warrant after he refused to comply.
At least one member of Trump's legal team "signed a written statement in June asserting that all material marked as classified and held in boxes in a storage area [at Mar-a-Lago] had been returned to the government," the Timesreported Saturday.
However, the FBI just retrieved 27 additional boxes of White House records from Trump's mansion--including classified documents, some of which were marked "top secret"--suggesting that the former president's lawyer had lied and possibly explaining why the DOJ, in seeking the search warrant, cited criminal statutes related to concealment of public records and obstruction of justice, in addition to espionage.
FBI agents seized documents designated "SCI," which refers to Sensitive Compartmented Information. In simple terms, this is classified information that comes from intelligence sources--and must be handled only within secured government locations.
Because this kind of sensitive information can reveal both methods and procedures for collecting intelligence--including the identity of undercover agents in hostile countries--the presence of such materials at Mar-a-Lago may be a violation of the Espionage Act, if Trump was willfully retaining this information after the government demanded its return.
The inventory also refers to numerous "top secret" documents. Federal law defines this as "information or material which requires the highest degree of protection" and could threaten national security.
Although it remains unclear whether the FBI recovered documents related to nuclear weapons, The Independentreported Saturday that one set of papers was identified "as Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information--a level of classification above the top secret level which is often applied to intelligence sources as well as the U.S. nuclear arsenal."
Just before Garland announced Thursday that the DOJ had moved to unseal the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, Trump reportedly sent a message to the AG saying, "The country is on fire."
"What can I do to reduce the heat?" he asked, according to the Times, which cited the individual who contacted the DOJ on behalf of Trump.
And yet, "apparently undeterred by the fallout from false claims of election fraud that compelled his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol, Trump and his allies have again used apocalyptic rhetoric to describe the legal storm that has enveloped him," BuzzFeed Newsreported.
In a campaign fundraising email sent to supporters on Friday, Donald Trump Jr. warned that the "nation is on the line."
"Biden and the Democrats are following in the footsteps of all the 3rd world Communist Dictators that the Left worships," Trump Jr. wrote. "Their out-of-control Department of Justice is ripping this Country apart with how they're openly targeting their political enemies."
Trump Sr. expressed similar sentiments on Sunday, arguing in a series of Truth Social posts that "Radical Left Democrats" have a "total stranglehold" over the DOJ and FBI. "It is all so out of control, great simmering anger!" added the former president.
In a memo distributed to bureau employees last week and reviewed by CNN, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that "your safety and security are my primary concern right now."
The FBI Security Division, he added, "is working across the agency as we continue to stay vigilant and adjust our security posture accordingly."
Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.