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The former president said on social media Thursday night he was “ENCOURAGING” (all caps) the release of “documents related” to the search. But we’ll know for sure if the deadline passes without action from his lawyers. He did not explicitly list the warrant, which he could have released himself early this week.
Trump has loudly (and inaccurately) complained about the search and tried rather successfully to make incendiary and evidence-free attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department a loyalty test for Republicans. But he could have released the warrant himself and chose not to.
So now we wait to see what the FBI found, even if it’s sure to raise more questions.
It could be nuclear-weapons information, because that’s what they went looking for, my colleagues Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Perry Stein and Shane Harris reported last night.
“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,” they reported.
There’s a lot we don’t yet know: The sources didn’t say whether the agents were seeking information about weapons belonging to the United States or some other nation, nor whether they actually recovered such documents in the search. And neither the Justice Department nor the FBI has commented.
Our colleagues explain why this is potentially serious: “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.”
Now that Attorney General Merrick Garland has unexpectedly asked the warrant and a “redacted Property Receipt” be unsealed, we may know more soon.
“The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” the Justice Department said in its filing with the judge in Florida overseeing the process, although it added that the president should have a chance to object to the motion.
(While the national religion this week has been “rush to judgment,” please remember a warrant isn’t the same as a jury verdict.)
Another interesting thing — though with the caveat that The Daily 202 is not a lawyer or a Justice Department reporter, but a poor lost circus performer — is who signed the department’s filing.
Yes, there’s Juan Antonio Gonzalez, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Routine. But there’s also Jay Bratt, who heads the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
“Counterintelligence and export control?” you ask. “What do they do?”
“The Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES) supervises the investigation and prosecution of cases affecting national security, foreign relations, and the export of military and strategic commodities and technology. The Section has executive responsibility for authorizing the prosecution of cases under criminal statutes relating to espionage, sabotage, neutrality, and atomic energy.”
Even redacted, that property receipt will hopefully shed some light on the kinds of sensitive documents the FBI retrieved a year and a half after Trump left office, and which he improperly kept in his possession.
That should lay to rest rumors, popular in some quarters on the right, that the search was a camouflaged quest for materials related to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol.
Trump lawyers can file objections to unsealing the warrant. The judge overseeing the case could then keep the materials sealed or decide to release them.
For now, it does not appear that the affidavit underpinning the search warrant — effectively, the probable-cause case for FBI agents to be allowed to hunt for illicitly retained materials at Mar-a-Lago — will be made public.
But Garland noted “it is standard practice to seek less-intrusive means as an alternative to a search, and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken.”
My colleagues chronicled how Trump’s team received a grand-jury subpoena in connection to the documents, followed by a visit from investigators, at which time the former president’s aides handed over some materials. So this week’s search was far from the first contact.
That gives a better sense of the chronology and the escalation, the “when.”
Now we wait for official word on the “what” and the “why.”
What’s happening now
House to vote on Inflation Reduction Act, preparing bill for Biden
“With debate set to begin in the morning, and a vote on passage likely later in the afternoon, the chamber is on track to deliver for Democrats a major legislative victory — one that party lawmakers already have touted on the campaign trail in a bid to protect and expand their majorities in this year’s midterm elections,” Tony Romm reports.
Salman Rushdie attacked onstage at literary festival in New York
“Author Salman Rushdie was attacked at a speaking event in Chautauqua, N.Y. on Friday by a man who stormed the stage and began attacking the writer, apparently either stabbing or punching him,” Kelsey Ables reports.
“According to witnesses at the scene, Rushdie fell through a barrier to the stage and was seen with blood on his hands. The audience tackled the attacker. Rushdie was then treated onstage following the assault.”
Trump calls nuclear weapons issue a ‘hoax’
“On Friday morning, [Trump] weighed in again on the case on social media, seeking to push back on Washington Post reporting that classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items that FBI agents sought from his home,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.
- “Nuclear weapons issue is a Hoax, just like Russia, Russia, Russia was a Hoax, two Impeachments were a Hoax, the Mueller investigation was a Hoax, and much more,” Trump posted on Truth Social, his social media platform.
Polio virus found in New York City wastewater
“Health authorities announced Friday that polio virus has been found in New York City wastewater, a discovery that extends the known presence of the virus from the region’s northern suburbs to the nation’s largest city,” Lenny Bernstein and Kristen Hartke report
Lunchtime reads from The Post
Under fire, Homeland Security watchdog delays probe — with GOP help
“The White House has faced mounting questions about a decision by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s office to abandon attempts to recover missing Secret Service texts from Jan. 6,2021. President Biden, in response, has signaled his intention to stay out of the process as an independent watchdog investigates the inspector general,” Lisa Rein reports.
“But Joseph V. Cuffari and his staff have refused to release certain documents and tried to block interviews, effectively delaying that probe, which has now stretched for more than 15 months and evolved into a wide-ranging inquiry into more than a dozen allegations of misconduct raised by whistleblowers and other sources, according to three people familiar with the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an open investigation.”
Search warrants for abortion data leave tech companies few options
“Prosecutors and local law enforcement have strict rules they must follow to obtain individuals’ private communications or location data to bolster a legal cases. Once a judge grants a request for users’ data, tech companies can do little to avoid complying with the demands,” Naomi Nix and Elizabeth Dwoskin report.
“That’s why, advocates say, social media platforms, telecom companies and other internet data brokers will have to limit what data they collect if they want to avoid helping the prosecution of women seeking abortions in states where the procedure is illegal.”
… and beyond
Five decades in the making: Why it took Congress so long to act on climate
“[Veterans of the nation’s failed attempts at climate legislation] pointed to a shift in strategy, which set aside what experts consider the most efficient way to cut carbon dioxide emissions, a tax on pollution, for the less-effective but more politically palatable approach of monetary incentives to industries and consumers to switch to clean energy. Essentially, lawmakers replaced the sticks with carrots,” the New York Times’s Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman report.
What DHS watchdog employees wanted to tell Congress about missing Jan. 6 Secret Service texts
“Congress was nearly notified in June that Secret Service text messages relevant to its Jan. 6 investigation had disappeared — weeks before it ultimately found out — according to documents obtained by the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight,” Politico's Betsy Woodruff Swan reports.
“Career officials at the Department of Homeland Security’s office of the inspector general added language about the missing texts to a mandatory report to the Hill, along with sharp criticism of the Secret Service. But that draft language didn’t make it into the final document, which is public.”
The latest on covid
CDC loosens coronavirus guidance, signaling strategic shift
“No longer do schools and other institutions need to screen apparently healthy students and employees as a matter of course. The CDC is putting less emphasis on social distancing — and the new guidance has dropped the ‘six foot’ standard. The quarantine rule for unvaccinated people is gone. The agency’s focus now is on highly vulnerable populations and how to protect them — not on the vast majority of people who at this point have some immunity against the virus and are unlikely to become severely ill,” Lena H. Sun and Joel Achenbach report.
The Biden agenda
Flush with wins, finally COVID-free, Biden to hit the road ahead of U.S. midterms
“President Joe Biden plans to travel across the United States in the coming weeks to tout a series of legislative wins on climate change, gun control and drug pricing in a bid to boost his party's chances in the looming midterm elections, White House officials said on Thursday,” Reuters's Jarrett Renshaw reports.
- “They did not specify where Biden would travel, but he is expected in states with hotly contested races including Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina.”
Biden to stay ‘laser focused’ on legislative accomplishments amid Trump investigations
“Even as federal and state investigations into former President Donald Trump heat up and dominate headlines, senior administration officials said Biden and his surrogates will be ‘laser focused’ in talking about policies that his administration and Democrats in Congress are delivering. The White House is launching a messaging push in the coming weeks that seeks to tout those accomplishments and paint congressional Republicans as siding with special interest groups and ‘pushing an extreme MAGA agenda,’” CNN's Jeremy Diamond and Arlette Saenz report.
Biden’s new challenge is FBI’s Trump search
“President Biden, wary of appearing to influence the ongoing Justice Department investigation into the former president, doesn’t want to talk about the FBI search earlier this week at Mar-a-Lago,” the Hill's Morgan Chalfant and Amie Parnes.
“Democrats say that’s the right approach, but it means Republicans hurling accusations and condemnations at the Justice Department and FBI will largely go unanswered by the White House. It also suggests that Biden is likely to shy away from openly criticizing his predecessor for the time being, despite most signs pointing to a Trump-Biden rematch in 2024.”
The Arctic's rapid warming, visualized
A study published Thursday suggests that warming in the Arctic is happening at a much faster rate than many scientists had expected, Chris Mooney, Brady Dennis and Sarah Kaplan report.
Hot on the left
A hopeful sign for holding the powerful accountable
“The most hopeful elite accountability moment this week, the one that suggests that maybe the rule of law has a pulse, wasn’t actually conducted with a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. It was a Justice Department victory in a different case that actually holds top officials of one of the nation’s biggest corporate recidivists accountable,” David Dayen writes for the American Prospect.
“On Wednesday, a jury in Chicago convicted two traders from JPMorgan Chase, including managing director Michael Nowak, who was the head of the bank’s gold trading desk, for financial fraud in gold markets. The traders were engaging in ‘spoofing,’ a practice of entering fake trades to spur activity and boost the commodity price. Financial-reform observers believe this case involves the most senior bank officers ever charged in recent history, let alone convicted.”
Hot on the right
GOP’s risky proposition: Rebuffing a fossil fuel-friendly climate bill
“As the [Inflation Reduction Act] heads to the House of Representatives Friday, former GOP lawmakers and Republican allied groups warn the party risks over-reaching and alienating key voting groups such as young people and suburban voters who want climate action in the face of worsening wildfires, droughts and flooding. Such alienation could complicate Republican efforts to retake one or both houses of Congress, they say,” Politico's Josh Siegel reports.
Today in Washington
Biden is on vacation in Kiawah Island, S.C., with no public events scheduled.
The prophecy (the Onion) foretold this
Thanks for reading. See you next week.