Former Attorney General Bill Barr on Friday afternoon offered perhaps the most scathing public criticism a prominent Republican has given about former President Donald Trump’s decision to bring a trove of government documents to Mar-A-Lago after the end of his term, suggesting federal authorities were left with little choice but to raid the property after Trump “jerked around” investigators.
Barr, who served as attorney general for almost two years under Trump, dismissed GOP criticism of the raid of a former president’s home as “unprecedented,” saying “it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put them in a country club.”
The former attorney general said Justice Department officials may have felt they needed to carry out the raid after reportedly being tipped off that Trump kept some highly classified documents after receiving a subpoena earlier this year asking him to turn over sensitive records.
Barr also poured cold water on Trump’s defense that he somehow declassified the documents, calling it a “highly improbable” act that would be “such an abuse” of power if it actually did happen.
Trump denies any wrongdoing and has repeatedly blasted the raid as a political stunt, claiming he would have willingly handed over any records prosecutors asked for.
Barr stepped down as Trump’s attorney general on December 23, 2020, after informing Trump there was no basis for his false claims of widespread election fraud—the former attorney general has since provided details about efforts to overturn the election results to January 6 committee investigators, with his testimony heavily featured during committee hearings this summer.
“I personally think for them to have taken things to the current point they probably have pretty good evidence,” Barr said of the DOJ’s decision to carry out the raid.
Many Republicans lashed out against the FBI and Justice Department after the August 8 raid, with some even issuing calls to “defund the FBI,” but the furor died down a bit over the past few weeks as more details emerged about the investigation. The latest disclosure came Friday, with an unsealed inventory of records taken from Mar-A-Lago showing they included 18 top-secret documents, 53 secret ones and 31 confidential documents. Investigators also obtained 48 empty folders that were marked classified, prompting speculation that Trump still possesses sensitive government records. A partially redacted search warrant unsealed last month revealed investigators carried out the raid due to suspected violations of the Espionage Act and other federal statutes.