Mar-a-Lago Search Put FBI on High Alert for Pro-Trump Protest Violence

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(Bloomberg) -- Federal law enforcement officers scoured social media to identify threats to FBI buildings and agents and issued internal warnings about possibly armed protests in the days after the FBI searched former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, according to emails and other records obtained by Bloomberg.

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Intelligence officers at the Federal Protective Service, an arm of the US Department of Homeland Security that protects federal buildings, called for increased patrols and security around government properties and instructed law enforcement officers to remain in a “heightened state of vigilance at this time.”

“An attack on a federal facility can occur in a variety of ways and is only limited to the imagination of the individual(s) who are planning, coordinating and executing the attack,” the FPS said in an Aug. 10 information bulletin sent to its officers in the Great Lakes region.

Two days earlier, a team of FBI agents searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, seizing some two dozen boxes of documents Trump had not returned to the National Archives and Records Administration after months of negotiations. Those boxes contained highly classified material, including some marked with the highest rating, TS/SCI, or “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information.”

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The 22 pages of documents underscore the ripple effect of the FBI’s search on Trump’s residence and the fears by federal law enforcement of the potential for political violence in its aftermath.

The partially redacted records, obtained from FPS in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, lay bare a radically different tone compared with similar documents, which the agency released to Bloomberg, before the Jan. 6 insurrection. Those documents showed officers were not nearly as vigilant in combing social media postings or identifying credible threats.

A man who had been at the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, Ricky Shiffer, was shot and killed by police after trying to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati field office three days after the search of Trump’s home.

The search sparked outrage among Trump supporters, including members of Congress, political candidates and other backers, whose reactions ranged from demanding budget cuts at the FBI to actual calls for violence.

FPS protects more than 50 FBI field offices and about 350 other FBI buildings around the US, according to the newly released documents.

On Aug. 10, Richard Cline, FPS’s principal deputy director, sent an email to Randolph “Tex” Alles, a top DHS official, along with intelligence details “reporting a spike in expressed social media threats against the FBI and to a lesser extent, other government and law enforcement agencies following the August 8, 2022 execution of a federal search warrant at the Florida residence of former President Trump.”

Earlier that day, an FPS intelligence officer flagged a comment left on the far-right website The Gateway Pundit that said, “Target practice using FBI agents who have not quit. This raid should be every agent’s last warning shot. It is absolutely not worth working in the FBI. Don’t heed the warning is your own death sentence.”

The next day, FBI Director Christopher Wray issued a public statement condemning the abuse and threats.

Emails show FPS monitored Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Trump’s social media platform, Truth Social, and “tracked” protests planned at FBI buildings in California, Texas, Phoenix, the District of Columbia and South Carolina.

Senior officials at FPS and DHS raised as a main concern the possibility that Trump supporters who were planning to stage a protest in front of FBI headquarters on Aug. 14 would show up armed.

“If protesters arrive in DC with guns, they will be arrested and charged with possession of a firearm without a permit,” an FPS official wrote in an Aug. 12 email. “Also, individuals in possession of ammunition but not a weapon also face charges in violation of DC code.”

The protest never materialized.

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