Some Republicans conceded that it would be concerning if Trump kept information about nuclear weapons.
The GOP largely continued to push the DOJ to disclose more about the FBI's Mar-a-Lago raid.
One House GOP lawmaker argued that not all nuclear information is "highly, highly" classified.
Republicans continued on Friday continued to question why the FBI would raid the private home of a former president, despite new reports that Donald Trump took classified documents related to nuclear weapons from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago residence.
But some GOP lawmakers are conceding that this new development is concerning.
Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs committee, said that he was still waiting to see more closely held information about the case, including the affidavit that investigators filed to obtain the search warrant. Federal prosecutors typically don't release such information at this stage of an investigation.
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"That's pretty serious, but that is also in a different compartment, you know, we compartmentalize classified information and nuclear is in its own place," the Texas lawmaker told Insider on Friday, alluding to the fact that some information about the US' nuclear arsenal is limited to only a few individuals. "I just don't have all the facts in front of me. It's unfortunate they just didn't work it out where he could send it back. You hate to see a former president have a search warrant" executed against him.
Rep. Mike Turner, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said "it depends on what the nuclear information is" during a news conference on Friday.
"There are things that are highly, highly classified and there are things that are not extremely classified but are nonetheless classified," he said. The Ohio lawmaker said his panel "of course" deals with concerns about the proper handling of classified information. But he stressed that Attorney General Merrick Garland had a "number of options" besides executing a search warrant at Trump's private club at Mar-a-Lago.
On Thursday night, The Washington Post reported that "classified documents related to nuclear weapons" were among the things FBI agents were looking for when they executed a search warrant at Trump's Palm Beach resort on Monday. Trump himself did not deny The Post's report in a statement on Friday.
Other Republicans on the intelligence panel said the onus was on Garland to tell lawmakers more about the raid, including the specifics of why there were national security concerns about the documents that were reportedly stored at Mar-a-Lago.
"Look at the premise of most of your questions, was it nuclear? Was it, heck, maybe it was aliens? That's the point," Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah said during a news conference. "We don't know, we're asking them to tell us. Until they tell us, we're going to have questions like this and the presumption is gonna be that it is political."
Initial news about the raid served as a unifying moment for the GOP as even some of Trump's biggest critics within the party condemned the search. Even Vice President Mike Pence, who has a strained relationship with Trump, expressed concern.
—Zach Blanchard (@ZachBlanchard) August 10, 2022
But Trump's more loyal followers within the party went even further. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky followed Trump's example by baselessly speculating that agents may have planted evidence in the material they retrieved from Mar-a-Lago. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called to "defund the FBI."
This torrent of criticism has shifted slightly as some lawmakers clarify that their questions lay mainly with top officials, not agents on the ground.
"I want to be very clear, the rank and file members of the FBI and our Department of Justice — they are brave men and women who do their job every single day," Rep. Trent Kelly of Mississippi told reporters during a news conference. "However, the 7th floor, the leadership of the FBI and Department of Justice, have been politicized in the eyes of most Americans."
Kelly added that "perception is reality" and that the only way DOJ officials can calm the tension sparked by Trump and the broader conservative reaction to the raid is to be more transparent about why investigators took such an aggressive step. Turner, Kelly, and other GOP members of the Intelligence Committee called for Garland to reveal more about why the raid was conducted.
"Christopher Wray, I would say to you personally you are in a crisis of leadership, you have to assure the American people that you are working for all of us, not just some of us," Stewart said. "If you did what you did this week and there was a necessity for it then tell the American people why."
Garland confirmed on Thursday that he personally signed off on the raid after "less intrusive" means failed.
Trump appointed Christopher Wray, the current FBI director, after the president fired FBI Director James Comey. The only opposition to Wray's confirmation came from Senate Democrats. Before returning to DOJ, Wray defended then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who would later run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, during the "Bridgegate" scandal.
Garland responded to criticism of the FBI on Thursday, telling reporters that agents and DOJ employees were "patriotic public servants." Wray added his own defense on Friday.
"Unfounded attacks on the integrity of the FBI erode respect for the rule of law and are a grave disservice to the men and women who sacrifice so much to protect others," Wray said in a statement.
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