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Washington (WABNEWS) Some allies of former President Donald Trump are urging him to release surveillance footage of FBI agents executing a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago residence, a proposal that has drawn a mixed reaction within his orbit. , WABNEWS learned.
The security camera footage has been so closely guarded that aides to the former president aren’t sure if he himself has seen it in its entirety, a person close to Trump said.RELATED
“I don’t think it was shared with anyone outside of the lawyers,” this person said.
However, when asked earlier this week by Fox’s Sean Hannity if the footage would be released, Trump’s son Eric said: “Absolutely Sean, at the right time.”
Some of Trump’s advisers and allies have encouraged the former president to make some of the footage available to the public, believing this could be a jolt of energy in the GOP base. A person familiar with the talks said there have been discussions about including the August images in campaign-style ads, believing the images could bolster Trump’s claims of political persecution.
Another person close to Trump said it’s not a question of whether the former president and his team will release any of the images, but when they will, noting that it could be released before he makes a campaign ad.
Others in Trump’s orbit have warned of potential risks to the former president if he releases the tapes. A second person close to Trump warned that releasing the images could backfire by providing people with a visual understanding of the sheer volume of materials federal agents seized from his waterfront residence, including classified materials.
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“It’s one thing to read a bunch of numbers on an inventory list, it’s another to watch law enforcement officers remove more than a dozen boxes from President Trump’s home knowing they likely contain sensitive documents. I don’t see how that helps him.” said this person, who spoke to WABNEWS on condition of anonymity so he could speak candidly.
Trump could also spend the next few months just feigning to release the images to use as a political weapon without actually doing it.
WABNEWS has reached out to the FBI and the Justice Department for comment.
Federal prosecutors revealed in recent days that the investigation “involves highly classified materials” and that their work is continuing, potentially leading to criminal charges.
While it’s unclear exactly what the surveillance footage might show, Trump and his lawyers say they recorded the Aug. 8 raid by federal investigators even after agents asked them to turn off security cameras. Jay Bratt, the chief of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence and export control section who visited Mar-a-Lago in June, was the official who made the specific request on the day of the raid, a source familiar with the matter told WABNEWS.
The Justice Department had previously cited surveillance footage of the club as part of its ongoing investigation, including outside the room where the documents were kept.
On Tuesday, Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform that FBI agents “demanded that all security cameras be turned off… We said no!” It is not uncommon for the FBI to try to ensure that no cameras record a search of this nature when classified materials are involved.
As the former president and his team weigh whether and when to release the surveillance footage, his impending 2024 presidential campaign announcement could be a factor at that time, said a person familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity to discuss matters. private. The former president is widely expected to launch a new bid for the job, though he is still deciding when he will formally launch his campaign.
It is unclear whether he has consulted with his current legal team about the possible implications of releasing the surveillance footage. The former president has reportedly been looking to hire experienced attorneys to help him navigate the federal investigation into his keeping of presidential records at Mar-a-Lago.
“If anyone can persuade him that this is good for him and bad for his enemies, he will do it,” said Ty Cobb, a former White House attorney under Trump. “He doesn’t have the lawyers to help him figure these things out strategically and he’s really thinking about them on his own.”
Trump’s attorney, Christina Bobb, declined to comment on the search.
Among Trump allies clamoring for him to release the surveillance footage, either in full or selected versions, is former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who told WABNEWS in an interview that he favors post the images, saying “give the nation the red pill,” in an apparent reference to the movie “The Matrix.”
A second Trump ally who spoke to WABNEWS on condition of anonymity also encouraged the former president’s team to release the footage, telling WABNEWS he would “drive the base crazy” if he could see FBI agents “scouring Mar- a-Lago while President Trump was out of town.” (The former president was at Trump Tower in New York City when the search occurred last week.)
Trump and his allies have repeatedly claimed on social media that Republicans are benefiting from a groundswell of enthusiasm among rank-and-file voters who believe the Justice Department abused its authority by executing a search warrant on Trump’s residence. former president.
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But the release of the tapes could neutralize some of the more conspiratorial excuses about the break-in that personalities from MAGA (Trump’s Make America Great Again movement) have been circulating in recent days, including the unsubstantiated notion that the FBI planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago, a claim the former president himself has repeatedly made and for which there is no evidence to back it up, especially after Trump’s own attorney signed receipts for FBI seizure at the end of the search.
Before revealing that he kept his surveillance cameras on at Mar-a-Lago, Trump also claimed that “no one” was allowed to watch the FBI search his home.
“I think the people of New York, President Trump and his family, probably had a better view than I did. Because they had the security cameras, they could watch,” Bobb told the right-wing network Real America’s Voice on Thursday. . Days later, Bobb told right-wing commentator Tomi Lahren that he had misunderstood the situation and that he did not know who saw the surveillance footage, live or recorded.
Trump’s former lawyer, Cobb, said he is skeptical that Trump will eventually release the images.
“If something problematic happened, like it showed someone planting evidence or something, then it would be really explosive,” Cobb said. “That’s the main reason I doubt they’ll go public with it, because I’m sure it doesn’t show them planting evidence and it takes that crazy claim off the table.”
Using it as leverage
As Trump ponders a third presidential campaign, the most politically potent move for him might be to keep talking about the existence of security footage without even making it public. It would be a familiar strategy for Trump, who routinely promised to provide exonerating evidence when he faced sexual harassment allegations during his 2016 presidential campaign but rarely delivered.
“It loses its power as leverage once it’s out,” Cobb said.
Trump has already pushed to release the warrant that led FBI agents to search his Palm Beach property last week and the list of items they seized while on the property, both of which were released last Friday at the Justice Department’s behest. . The former president also urged Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart to release the underlying affidavit that was instrumental in federal agents obtaining a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago.
Writing in Truth Social on Monday, Trump said, “In the interest of TRANSPARENCY, I call for the immediate release of the completely unredacted affidavit related to this horrific and shocking ROBBERY.”
The Justice Department responded this week to oppose the media’s request to release the affidavit, arguing that doing so could compromise its ongoing investigation and discourage the cooperation of future witnesses.