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FBI informant could be one of 6-8 people in Trump's inner circle

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  • Mick Mulvaney said that someone "very close" to Trump is possibly working with the FBI.

  • Mulvaney, who was Trump's chief of staff, said even he didn't know there was a safe at Mar-a-Lago.

  • He estimated there were six to eight people in Trump's inner circle with access to such information.

Mick Mulvaney, a former White House chief of staff for former President Donald Trump, has speculated that if an FBI informant in Trump's camp did exist, they would likely be one of the six to eight people closest to the former president.

Mulvaney spoke to CNN on Thursday about the FBI's Monday raid of Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.

He said that he thought the informant whose tip-off sparked the raid was likely someone deeply embedded in Trump's orbit and "really close" to him.

Citing sources, Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that someone had told the authorities that classified government documents might have been improperly stored at Mar-a-Lago.

"I didn't even know there was a safe at Mar-a-Lago, and I was the chief of staff for 15 months," Mulvaney said.

He added that the informant would be someone "very close to the president" who handled day-to-day affairs and knew "where the documents were."

"My guess is there's probably six or eight people who had that kind of information," Mulvaney said.

"If you know where the safe is and you know the documents are in 10 boxes in the basement, you're pretty close to the president," he said.

Mulvaney added that he did not know who the people in Trump's "inside circle" were at the moment, and was unable to provide specific names.

He also urged the FBI to release more information about the search. "The burden is on them to show that they are absolutely on the up-and-up," he said. "And releasing that affidavit is something they can and should do."

Mulvaney's comments come as suspicions grow within Trumpworld about there being a mole close to the former president. According to Axios, Trump allies believe someone may have "flipped" on the former president and started working with the FBI.

Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, also weighed in on the matter, telling Insider he wouldn't be surprised if the informant turned out to be Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, or one of his children.

The FBI has not given an official reason for its search of Mar-a-Lago, though it may reveal a reason if the DOJ's motion to unseal court records regarding the raid goes through.

Numerous media outletsalong with Trump's son, Eric — have suggested that the search concerned material that Trump may have taken to Mar-a-Lago from the White HouseThe Washington Post also reported that the FBI had been searching for classified documents about nuclear weapons during the raid.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago related to nuclear documents, sources say

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Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Experts in classified information said the unusual search underscores deep concern among government officials about the types of information they thought could be located at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and potentially in danger of falling into the wrong hands.

The people who described some of the material that agents were seeking spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. They did not offer additional details about what type of information the agents were seeking, including whether it involved weapons belonging to the United States or some other nation. Nor did they say if such documents were recovered as part of the search. A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. The Justice Department and FBI declined to comment.

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Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday that he could not discuss the investigation. But in an unusual public statement at the Justice Department, he announced he had personally authorized the decision to seek court permission for a search warrant.

Garland spoke moments after Justice Department lawyers filed a motion seeking to unseal the search warrant in the case, noting that Trump had publicly revealed the search shortly after it happened.

“The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” the motion says. “That said, the former President should have an opportunity to respond to this Motion and lodge objections, including with regards to any ‘legitimate privacy interests’ or the potential for other ‘injury’ if these materials are made public.”

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Late Thursday night, Trump said on social media that he agreed the document should be made public. In another post early Friday, he called the nuclear weapons issue a “hoax” and accused the FBI of planting evidence, without offering information to indicate such a thing had happened. Trump said agents did not allow his lawyers to be present for the search, which is not unusual in a law enforcement operation, especially if it potentially involves classified items.

Material about nuclear weapons is especially sensitive and usually restricted to a small number of government officials, experts said. Publicizing details about U.S. weapons could provide an intelligence road map to adversaries seeking to build ways of countering those systems. And other countries might view exposing their nuclear secrets as a threat, experts said.

One former Justice Department official, who in the past oversaw investigations of leaks of classified information, said the type of top-secret information described by the people familiar with the probe would probably cause authorities to try to move as quickly as possible to recover sensitive documents that could cause grave harm to U.S. security.

“If that is true, it would suggest that material residing unlawfully at Mar-a-Lago may have been classified at the highest classification level,” said David Laufman, the former chief of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence section, which investigates leaks of classified information. “If the FBI and the Department of Justice believed there were top secret materials still at Mar-a-Lago, that would lend itself to greater ‘hair-on-fire’ motivation to recover that material as quickly as possible.”

The Monday search of Trump’s home by FBI agents has caused a political furor, with Trump and many of his Republican defenders accusing the FBI of acting out of politically motivated malice. Some have threatened the agency on social media.

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As Garland spoke Thursday, police in Ohio were engaged in a standoff with an armed man who allegedly tried to storm the Cincinnati office of the FBI. The man was killed by police later that day; authorities said negotiations had failed.

State and federal officials declined to name the man or describe a potential motive. However, a law enforcement official identified him as Ricky Shiffer.

According to another law enforcement official, agents are investigating Shiffer’s possible ties to extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, whose leaders are accused of helping launch the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

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A person using Shiffer’s name on TruthSocial, Trump’s social media site, posted a “call to arms” message shortly after Monday’s FBI search became public.

“People, this is it,” the message reads. “Leave work tomorrow as soon as the gun shop/Army-Navy store/pawn shop opens, get whatever you need to be ready for combat. We must not tolerate this one. They have been conditioning us to accept tyranny and think we can’t do anything for 2 years. This time we must respond with force.”

The Washington Post could not confirm whether the account actually belonged to Shiffer.

In his statement on Thursday, Garland defended FBI agents as “dedicated, patriotic public servants” and said he would not “stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked … Every day they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights. They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves. I am honored to work alongside them.”

It was Garland’s first public appearance or comment since agents executed the warrant at Mar-a-Lago Club, taking about a dozen boxes of material after opening a safe and entering a padlocked storage area. The search was one of the most dramatic developments in a cascade of legal investigations of the former president, several of which appear to be growing in intensity.

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The investigation into the improper handling of documents began months ago, when the National Archives and Records Administration sought the return of material taken to Mar-a-Lago from the White House. Fifteen boxes of documents and items, some of them marked classified, were returned early this year. The archives subsequently asked the Justice Department to investigate.

Former senior intelligence officials said in interviews that during the Trump administration, highly classified intelligence about sensitive topics, including about intelligence-gathering on Iran, was routinely mishandled. One former official said the most highly classified information often ended up in the hands of personnel who didn’t appear to have a need to possess it or weren’t authorized to read it.

That former official also said signals intelligence — intercepted electronic communications such as emails and phone calls of foreign leaders — was among the type of information that often ended up with unauthorized personnel. Such intercepts are among the most closely guarded secrets because of what they can reveal about how the United States has penetrated foreign governments.

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A person familiar with the inventory of 15 boxes taken from Mar-a-Lago in January indicated that signals intelligence material was included in them. The precise nature of the information was unclear.

The former officials and the other individual spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters.

This spring, Trump’s team received a grand jury subpoena in connection with the documents investigations, two people familiar with the investigation, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details, confirmed to The Post on Thursday. Investigators visited Mar-a-Lago in the weeks following the issuance of the subpoena, and Trump’s team handed over some materials. The subpoena was first reported by Just the News, a conservative media outlet run by John Solomon, one of Trump’s recently designated representatives to the National Archives.

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Pressure had been building for Garland to say something so the public could understand why the Justice Department — and a federal magistrate judge — believed the extraordinary step of executing a search warrant at the home of a former president was necessary. But Garland has stuck with his practice of not discussing ongoing investigations.

“Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor,” Garland said Thursday. “Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing.”

Trump and his allies have refused to publicly share a copy of the warrant, even as they and their supporters have denounced the search as unlawful and politically motivated but provided no evidence to back that up.

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Lawyers for the former president can respond to the government’s filing with any objections to unsealing the warrant, leaving it to the judge overseeing the case to decide. Trump also could publicly release the warrant himself.

The judge ordered the Justice Department to confer with lawyers for Trump and alert the court by 3 p.m. Friday as to whether Trump objects to the unsealing.

If made public, the warrant would probably reveal a general description of what material agents were seeking at Mar-a-Lago and what crimes they could be connected to. A list of the inventory that agents took from the property would also be released. Details could be limited, however, particularly if the material collected includes classified documents.

In addition to the anti-law enforcement threats and vitriol on social media sites and elsewhere this week, the furor over the search warrant has led to threats against the judge who approved the warrant request.

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association — the professional association representing 31,000 federal law enforcement officers and agents — said in a statement Wednesday evening that its agents had received “extreme threats of violence” this week.

“All law enforcement understand their work makes them a target for criminal actors,” wrote the group’s president, Larry Cosme. “However, the politically motivated threats of violence against the FBI this week are unprecedented in recent history and absolutely unacceptable.”

Republicans around Trump initially thought the raid could help him politically, but they are now bracing for revelations that could be damaging, a person familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Jacqueline Alemany, Spencer S. Hsu, Meryl Kornfield and Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

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FBI Tipped Off By Informant Who Guided It To Documents In Mar-A-Lago Raid: Reports

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The National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of documents from the Palm Beach, Florida, residence in February before asking the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s potential crimes in violating the Presidential Records Act by storing government materials at his home.

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The raid didn’t transpire without inside help.

Two senior government officials, who requested to stay anonymous but had information about the search, told Newsweek that one individual guided authorities to documents at Mar-a-Lago and that the raid was set to occur when Trump was out of town to avoid a galvanizing photo-op.

The Wall Street Journal corroborated those claims, speaking with anonymous sources who said the informant knew the location of these classified documents and that Trump stored many more at Mar-a-Lago than the 15 boxes retrieved in February.

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Outraged Republicans, including Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), have rallied around the former president by suggesting the Biden administration weaponized the Justice Department against Trump. The former president spread a conspiracy theory Wednesday on his Truth Social platform that the FBI planted documents at Mar-a-Lago.

“Monday’s brazen raid was not just unprecedented, it was completely unnecessary,” Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich told the Journal. “President Trump and his representatives have gone to painstaking lengths in communicating and cooperating with all the appropriate agencies.”

Sources close to Trump told Rolling Stone he is now so paranoid he’s worried about being wiretapped — and trying to root out the FBI “rat.”

“He has asked me and others, ‘Do you think our phones are tapped?’” one source told Rolling Stone. “Given the sheer volume of investigations going on into the (former) president, I do not think he’s assuming anything is outside the realm of possibility.”

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Planting distrust, not evidence: The right’s latest effort to impugn the FBI

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The first minutes after Donald Trump announced that his Florida estate had been searched by FBI agents went better than the former president could have imagined. His years-long effort to cast the bureau as inherently biased against him quickly prompted even Trump-skeptical Republicans to side with him against the devious “deep state.” The wagon-circling reportedly pleased Trump, whose team saw a new breath of unity with Trump as its focus.

That this reaction was based on claims of political bias within the FBI that have no basis in the available evidence was beside the point. The point was that the FBI became the opposition, just as Trump would have hoped.

But it turns out that this wasn’t enough. Baseless assertions of impropriety and bias by the FBI have now been kicked up a notch with multiple figures on the right claiming — again without evidence, much less justification — that maybe the agents planted evidence as they combed through Mar-a-Lago. Because, it seems, any opponent of Trump’s must be cast in the most nefarious terms possible.

The insinuation was first made by Trump attorney Christina Bobb. Speaking to a right-wing streaming service, Bobb (herself a veteran of the right-wing network One America News) repeatedly tried to suggest that the FBI had acted inappropriately. She asked to see their warrant when she arrived at Mar-a-Lago on Monday morning; she claims they at first resisted. She hoped to observe the search; they prevented her from doing so.

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“We’ll see what they come up with. If they did, it will be interesting — especially since they precluded me from watching what they did,” Bobb said. “But at this point, I don’t necessarily think that they would even go to the extent of trying to plant information. I think they just make stuff up.”

It is certainly true that law enforcement officers have in the past planted evidence on suspects. But the idea that they would do so in this context makes no sense. They took a dozen boxes of material; if agents at the scene wanted to inject something incriminating, there were plenty of opportunities to do so once they’d left Mar-a-Lago. After all, planting evidence at a crime scene would generally be done with the aim of convincing other officials not in on the scheme that it was there all along. If all the officials are in on it, there’s no such need. And if all of the agents weren’t in on the alleged nefariousness at Mar-a-Lago, the problem would be being spotted by other agents more than Trump’s attorneys.

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All of this runs the obvious risk of treating this insinuation as in any way credible. It is not, even in Bobb’s vague formulation. There is literally no reason to think that the FBI wanted to add anything to the evidence that wasn’t already present. Asserting that there is reason to think so requires that you believe (or want others to believe) that the bureau is inherently corrupt and out to get Trump, which is begging the question.

Anyway, it got worse. Another Trump attorney, Alina Habba, appeared on Fox News on Tuesday night with host Jesse Watters. Watters, whose track record of accuracy is not spotless, quickly elevated the idea that the FBI was up to something.

“What the FBI is probably doing is planting evidence, which is what they did during the Russia hoax,” he said. “We also have a hunch they doctored evidence to get the warrant — again, what they did during the Russia hoax.”

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Watters’s hunch should be considered as strongly correlated to demonstrated reality as I should be considered a contender for this year’s Cy Young Award. Yes, an FBI official pleaded guilty to altering an email used in a warrant application, but he avoided jail time in part because a judge believed the claim that the information he added was accurate. The “planting evidence” statement is a reference to a complicated assertion made by special counsel John Durham that’s never been substantiated. But each is a good example of how isolated, decontextualized claims targeting the FBI have propagated through the conservative bubble with the central aim of casting the bureau and not Trump as the dubious actor.

Habba, of course, agreed with Watters.

“Quite honestly, I’m concerned that they may have planted something,” she said. “At this point, who knows? I don’t trust the government, and that’s a very frightening thing as an American.”

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This, of course, is how it works: Use unfounded allegations of wrongdoing against the government as a reason to distrust the government and use distrust of government as a reason to suggest that the government committed acts of wrongdoing. It’s exactly how defenses of Trump’s claims about election fraud worked. He insisted that fraud was going to occur and then that it had occurred. A lot of people believed him. That belief was then cited as a reason to address election fraud, which heightened the sense that something needed to be fixed.

On Wednesday morning, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), long an outspoken critic of the intelligence community and how the government wields power, echoed the baseless idea that the FBI might plant evidence.

“Do I know that the boxes of material they took from Mar-a-Lago, that they won’t put things into those boxes to entrap him?” Paul said. “How do we know? … How do we know they’re going to be honest with us about what’s actually in the boxes? How do we know that was in the box before it left the residence if the lawyers weren’t allowed to see everything?”

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After all, he added, the FBI had “lost a great deal of trust” — thanks in part to years of misrepresentations of the FBI’s actions.

Skepticism of law enforcement is always warranted and always an important part of the American system. But there’s a difference between informed skepticism and an effort to use eroded trust in law enforcement to further erode trust in law enforcement.

Consider where Paul’s framing does and doesn’t differ from that of Trump himself, who opined on his bespoke social media network Wednesday morning.

“Everyone was asked to leave the premises, they wanted to be left alone, without any witnesses to see what they were doing, taking or, hopefully not, ‘planting,’ ” Trump wrote. “Why did they STRONGLY insist on having nobody watching them, everybody out?”

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This isn’t skepticism. This is Trump continuing a years-long pattern of disparaging the integrity of the FBI at every opportunity, solely to inoculate his supporters against occasions in which he was or might be the focus of the FBI’s interest. For occasions, that is, like this one.

There is an added benefit to this line of argument. Should the FBI announce that it uncovered something incriminating among the documents, Trump et al have a prefabricated response: You put it there. The base inoculated once again.

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Trump Baselessly Suggests F.B.I. Planted Evidence in Mar-a-Lago Search

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Even as former President Donald J. Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment in a New York inquiry into his business practices, he and his allies began an effort to discredit another investigation, suggesting without evidence that federal agents may have planted incriminating materials before searching his residence in Florida on Monday.

In a post on Wednesday morning on his social media app, Truth Social, Mr. Trump said that the agents who showed up at Mar-a-Lago would not let anyone, including his lawyers, observe their work, which was authorized by a federal magistrate judge.

Mr. Trump — who has not released the search warrant provided by the agents to his lawyers or the manifest his team was given of the materials the agents gathered and removed — baselessly suggested that the F.B.I. might have acted inappropriately.

“Everyone was asked to leave the premises, they wanted to be alone,” he wrote, “without any witnesses to see what they were doing, taking or, hopefully not, ‘planting.’”

Mr. Trump’s effort to sow doubts about the F.B.I.’s search before the results are known was in keeping with his history of trying to head off news by seeking to turn the tables on his accusers. The former president’s first line of attack against adversaries is often to mount a campaign in advance to discredit them and their work.

Around the same time that his message appeared on social media, The New York Post published an article about the F.B.I. search, noting in the third paragraph that “a source close to the former president” had expressed concern that federal agents or prosecutors could have “planted stuff” in the 128-room building.

The unfounded allegations seem to have first emerged on Tuesday morning when Christina Bobb, a lawyer for Mr. Trump who was present during the search, was asked during an interview on the right-wing TV station Real America’s Voice about whether it was possible that federal agents could have planted evidence.

“There is no security that something wasn’t planted,” Ms. Bobb said before quickly admitting that she did not know if anything improper had occurred.

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'Who Leaked?' FBI's Trump Insider Focus of New Lincoln Project Ad

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The Lincoln Project has taken shots at Donald Trump over the FBI raid of his Mar-a-Lago estate, suggesting that someone in his inner circle had betrayed him.

As the fallout from the search on Monday of Trump's family home in Florida continues, the conservative CPAC, whose raison d'etre is to target the former president, released a 60-second video that started by asking: "Who was it Donald? Who gave you up to the Feds?"

Accompanied by a narrator whose whispered tone is drenched in subterfuge, the video shows newsreel footage of the search.

"Who told them what you kept in a safe in Mar-a-Lago," the female narrator said. "No, not that stuff," she added.

This referred to images of hand-written notes in a toilet, which relate to claims by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman of how Trump disposed of sensitive documents.

"The classified documents; 15 boxes of top secret files," the narrator said, "that's naughty Donald."

"But who leaked?" the narrator asks, as an image of Trump beside children Donald Trump Jr. and Tiffany Trump flashes up on screen.

These segued into images of son Eric Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as the former president walking next to former First Lady Melania Trump.

Each name is mentioned followed by an insult. "Was it Jared?—ungrateful." "Ivanka?—they're backing away from you." "Don Jr?—your own son." "Eric?—do you even care?"

"Melania?—She wants to escape."

Then the former chief of staff Mark Meadows is mentioned as the narrator notes that "all your old Washington friends are talking" to the Jan. 6 Committee investigating the U.S. Capitol riots.

"Maybe it was someone closer, someone you trusted," she said. "Someone who you trusted betrayed you," the ad states. "Now you're the first president to have his home raided by the FBI."

"It's bad Donald, your father would be ashamed and there's no one you can trust."

As exclusively reported by Newsweek, two senior government sources have said that the FBI's warrant to search Mar-a-Lago was based on information from a confidential human source who could "identify what classified documents former President Trump was still hiding."

Regarding the video, which as of Thursday morning had been seen more than 1.7 million times, Lincoln Project co-founder Reed Galen said: "The rats are jumping ship and Donald is realizing he can't trust even his own family."

According to Florida Politics, Galen said "he knows the calls are coming from inside the house and he's running out of time to figure out who it is."

Trump's team, which Newsweek has contacted for comment, has reacted to the raid with anger. The former president suggested on Truth Social on Wednesday that those involved in the search may have planted evidence.

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