Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee held a chaotic press conference Friday in which they deflected from the possibility that former President Donald Trump put U.S. national security at risk by keeping classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home.
The Republicans offered mixed messaging, but ultimately cast doubt on the FBI’s handling of the investigation and demanded to know what classified information Trump was suspected of keeping at his Florida golf club in order to judge for themselves whether it was enough to warrant the FBI’s Monday raid.
“I can tell you that there are a number of things that fall under the umbrella of nuclear weapons, but that are not necessarily things that are truly classified. Many of them you can find on your own phone,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Other members invoked the 2017 congressional baseball shooting and, yet again, the Hillary Clinton email scandal.
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) asked: “Was it nuclear? Was it ― heck, maybe it was aliens. That’s the point. We don’t know. We are asking them to tell us.”
The New York Times reported that the material related to the U.S. government’s most sensitive operations or technical capabilities, while The Washington Post specifically said it contained information on nuclear weapons.
The Department of Justice moved Thursday to unseal the FBI’s search warrant, and Trump has indicated he will not stand in their way.
Since the raid, though, Trump’s allies have repeatedly lobbed attacks on federal law enforcement, spreading rhetoric that has contributed to an uptick in threats against FBI agents.
Americans can likely expect to see the search warrant and a property receipt in the coming days.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a former FBI agent himself, cautioned that the warrant may not reveal much more than which statute authorities are using to investigate Trump, and said an affidavit from investigators would tell the public much more.
He then emphasized how it was important that Americans maintain faith in federal law enforcement institutions.
“If we ever get to the point where we lose the faith of the public, it impacts all of us,” Fitzpatrick said, adding, “It impacts our national security.”
But his colleagues broadly used their time at the podium to discredit the FBI.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) condemned the Thursday morning attack on the FBI’s Cincinnati offices ― the motive for which is still under investigation ― before pivoting to argue that the baseball shooting, in which a left-leaning shooter wounded multiple people, was actually “an insurrection” that the FBI failed to properly investigate.
Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.) followed suit, alleging that the FBI continues to “cover up” information relating to the 2017 shooting.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) took direct aim at Attorney General Merrick Garland, who delivered a brief statement Thursday afternoon defending the broader apparatus of federal law enforcement.
“Where is the trust came from?” Mullin asked. “What has caused him to think that the American people should trust him? Is it the way that they handled Hillary Clinton’s case with her emails? Is it the Russia collusion?”
“This is the same agency leadership that protected Hillary Clinton, [former FBI Director] James Comey, and continues to protect Hunter Biden,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said, referencing President Joe Biden’s surviving son.