GOP lawmakers struggle to contain the fallout from Mar-a-Lago nukes revelations
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) speaks during the 6th Annual Women Rule Summit at a hotel in Washington, DC on December 11, 2018. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican lawmakers attempted to contain the fallout from revelations that Donald Trump may have taken top-secret nuclear weapons documents to his home in Mar-A-Lago.

The FBI searched his private Florida resort seeking presidential documents the Department of Justice had subpoenaed but never received, and Republicans tempered their initial attacks on law enforcement Friday, after attorney general Merrick Garland agreed to unseal portions of the warrant and a Trump supporter attacked an FBI office in Cincinnati.

"There were a number of court actions that could have been done that would not have resulted in agents being in Mar-A-Lago for nine hours," said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. "One thing that we all know is Donald Trump has more classified information in his head than he does in his desk, but yet they claim there was an immediate need to enter his residence, and our committee deals with intelligence and national security issues, so we are demanding disclosure to this committee, what was the national security basis?"

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) aimed her fire at reporters asking questions about the reported nuclear materials sought by investigators.

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"Many of you are the same reporters who asked us questions on Russian collusion, and look how that fell apart," Stefanik said, deflecting questions about whether GOP attacks on law enforcement motivated the Cincinnati incident. "Look what our House Republican leadership said: 'Preserve your documents.' That's about finding the facts. He should have said we want answers and transparency, and the American people want, whether you're a Republican or Democrat, I call on my House Democrat colleagues, we deserve answers."

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), the only former FBI agent in Congress, suggested both sides were guilty of political violence. "It's not specific to any party," Fitzpatrick said.

"Have you seen how many people disrespected the institution of the Supreme Court? You think that's okay? I don't think any of this is okay. Our country is 246 years old, that's just a few generations, and yet we're the world's oldest democracy, and that can go away very quickly, and as our adversaries have said so many times, the only way you're going to beat America, you're never going to beat America from the outside, ever. The only way you beat the world's greatest democracy is turning America on America."

The Washington Post on Thursday cited anonymous sources close to the investigation as saying classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the papers sought by FBI agents during the raid.

READ: ‘Signals intel’ at Mar-a-Lago makes Trump’s scandal look so much worse

Trump himself appeared to deny the claim, posting that the "nuclear weapons issue is a hoax" and suggesting the Federal Bureau of Investigation might have been "planting information" at his home.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) suggested that Hillary Clinton had gotten away with worse.

"We saw this media frenzy about supposedly classified information," Mullin said. "Where was this same media frenzy when there was 33,000 classified emails on a server in a bathroom with Hillary Clinton. Why didn't they raid that bathroom? Why'd they work with her to find out a time, a date and what documents they could and couldn't see? Did they do the same thing here?"

The FBI raid sparked a political firestorm in an already bitterly divided country, and comes as Trump weighs another White House run in 2024.

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In a statement on Thursday Trump said his attorneys had been "cooperating fully" and "the government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it."

Leading Republicans have rallied around Trump, and some members of his party have harshly denounced the Justice Department and FBI, accusing them of partisanship in targeting the ex-president.

Garland criticized what he called "unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents and prosecutors."

In the hours before Garland's remarks, an armed man tried to storm an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio in an attack that appeared to be a direct response to the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago.

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The assailant, shot dead by police after exchanges of gunfire and an hours-long standoff, was identified as Ricky Shiffer.

The New York Times said a person posting on Truth Social under that name wrote "I tried attacking the FBI," and said he hoped his actions would serve as a "call to arms."

The Justice Department typically does not confirm or deny whether it is investigating someone, and Garland took pains to emphasize the law was being applied fairly to Trump.

"Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy," he said. "The rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor."

In addition to investigations into his business practices, Trump faces legal scrutiny for his efforts to overturn the results of the election and the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.


With additional reporting by Matt Laslo and AFP