Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team interviewed several witnesses about a “hidden room” and closet that the FBI failed to check during the search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar -a-Lago in 2022, sources said. ABC News.
After the search, some investigators felt the cupboard, which was locked during the search, should have been checked, sources told the news outlet. Investigators later learned that Trump allegedly had the lock on the closet changed while his lawyer searched for classified documents in a basement storage room, according to the report. A former maintenance employee called the request “unusual,” sources told the outlet.
Trump’s efforts to conceal classified documents from his own lawyer were part of the indictment filed by Smith. The questioning suggests that Smith’s team is “still trying to determine whether there might be more classified material,” ABC News reports.
Jordan Strauss, a former national security official and Justice Department prosecutor, said the FBI’s failure to search the closet was “a little surprising” given how “unusually thorough” the agents were.
“You’re searching the house of a former president. You (should) get it right the first time,” he told ABC News.
The officers were unable to unlock the closet door because they couldn’t find a key and were told the space behind the door led nowhere, so the officers decided not to open it, sources told the outlet.
The agents also decided they felt they had been at Mar-a-Lago long enough, sources said, but a senior FBI official pushed back.
“Discussions took place that day regarding additional areas of the property and it was determined that the actions already taken met the parameters of the search warrant,” the official said.
Strauss questioned the FBI’s decision.
“(The FBI) is almost known for its relentlessness and its follow-through,” Strauss said.
The FBI also failed to search a so-called “hidden room” connected to Trump’s bedroom, sources told the outlet. Smith’s team later learned that some Trump staffers had heard that the FBI had missed at least one room at Mar-a-Lago. Unlike the closet, the FBI was unaware of the “hidden room” at the time of the search, sources said.
A senior FBI official told ABC News that agents focused on areas they believed could contain government documents.
“Based on information gathered throughout the investigation, areas were identified and searched in accordance with the search warrant,” the official said.
It is unclear whether prosecutors or Trump’s lawyers were aware of the unexamined spaces and whether Smith considered seeking another search warrant to search Mar-a-Lago for additional documents.
A Trump campaign spokesperson called the investigations into the former president “desperate attempts at election interference…to stop the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.”
Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who served on special counsel Bob Mueller’s team, tweeted that the report suggests that “an insider tipped off the FBI,” suggesting “another cooperating witness” in the case.
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Former US Attorney Joyce Vance on her Substack Blog called the FBI’s failure to search the closet and hidden room “disturbing.”
“It is inexplicable that the officers did not insist on obtaining a key or breaking the lock to inspect the space. Important national secrets were at risk and they were authorized to examine any space under Trump’s control where they might be stored,” Vance wrote.
Even though investigators did not appear to seek a second search warrant, that “does not mean that this evidence could not prove useful,” she stressed.
“The crux of the case against Trump is his efforts to obstruct the investigation and prevent classified documents from being retrieved by the government, even after his own lawyers informed him that he had to return them,” she said. she writes. “If Jack Smith’s team can prove that Trump, for example, changed the lock on his closet and stored documents there to hide them from the government, that would be powerful when the case goes to trial.”