Donald Trump just needs a few names.
In recent months, the former president has asked close advisers, including at least one of his personal attorneys, if “we know” all the names of senior FBI agents and Justice Department personnel who have worked on the federal probes into him. That’s according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter and another person briefed on it.
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Trump has then privately discussed that should he return to the White House, it is imperative his new Department of Justice “quickly” and “immediately” purge the FBI and DOJ’s ranks of these officials and agents who’ve led the Trump-related criminal investigations, the sources recount. The ex-president has of course dubbed all such probes as illegitimate “witch hunts,” and is now campaigning for the White House on a platform of “retribution” and cleaning house.
Separately, the twice-impeached former president has been saying for many months that on “day one” of his potential second term, he wants FBI director Christopher Wray “out” of the bureau, according to another source familiar with the matter and two people close to Trump. It’s an ironic turn, given that Trump appointed Wray in 2017.
(Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s 2024 primary rival, has also pledged to fire Wray, telling Fox News last week that he’d do so on “day one.”)
But in the years since, Trump came to deeply distrust Wray. By the end of 2020, Trump was venting to senior administration officials that he would make it a top priority to replace Wray “next year,” blasting the director for not wholesale purging the FBI of non-Trump-loyalists. Trump lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden, and thus didn’t get his chance to fire Wray in 2021.
During some of the conversations this year, including at Trump’s Florida club Mar-a-Lago, some of Trump’s close political allies told him that they are working on figuring out the identities of the FBI and DOJ staff and forming lists, two of the sources relay to Rolling Stone.
However, others have complained that the feds aren’t making it easy for them.
In December 2022, the conservative nonprofit Judicial Watch — run by prominent Trump ally Tom Fitton — filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding information about “all employees hired by or detailed to the office of Special Counsel Jack Smith.” In April, the Justice Department denied the request on the ground that it was an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” and that it would “interfere with enforcement proceedings.”
“One can only conclude, after seeing the uproar over the anti-Trump, partisan Mueller operation, that the Garland Justice Department has something to hide about Jack Smith and his prosecutors again targeting Trump and other Republicans with unprecedented investigations,” Fitton said at the time.
On Friday, Fitton told Rolling Stone that the DOJ is still “stonewalling” him and his group on the identities: “I don’t understand why it is that the names of prosecutors involved in a criminal investigation are secret. The Durham report shows it’s important we know who’s working there. We don’t want Social Security numbers or personal phone numbers, but certainly senior leaders and others who are pursuing this need to be disclosed.
“We were able to get hiring material for the Mueller investigations, interviews applications and stuff like that,” he added.
Fitton said his group is still seeking the information administratively, but that “this is the type of lawsuit we typically would pursue.”
Other developments have made it harder for MAGA allies to create a comprehensive list of whom to potentially fire. Prior to Smith’s appointment, full names — in official DOJ email addresses — would appear in emails sent by Justice Department lawyers working on the Trump-related probes, to attorneys for subjects and likely targets of the investigations. But in the time since Special Counsel Smith started overseeing the probes last year, such emails began at times only showing initials for multiple DOJ addresses, obscuring the names of certain lawyers or personnel working on the special counsel’s team, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
The feds, including Special Counsel Smith’s office, are currently investigating Trump and his associates for their efforts leading up to the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack, as well as for the ex-president’s hoarding of classified documents after he left office. Trump remains the leading candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination in various polls, and he has already been indicted in a separate criminal investigation in New York. His lawyers are also expecting a federal indictment in the Justice Department’s Mar-a-Lago documents probe soon, and have already briefed Trump as such.
The identities of law enforcement personnel involved in the Mar-a-Lago investigation have been a flashpoint between Trump and the Justice Department since the FBI executed a search warrant on his residence in August 2022. Prosecutors unsealed a copy of the search warrant with the names of agents redacted, but the former president posted a copy of the document with the names of two FBI agents involved in the search.
Trump’s latest crusade against the FBI coincides with his plans for a complete remaking of the federal bureaucracy. That includes promises to install extreme loyalists like Jeffrey Clark and Michael Flynn, who aided Trump’s anti-democratic efforts to overturn the 2020 election outcome. Trump also has pledged to sign an executive order, dubbed Schedule F, that would make it easier to hire loyalists and fire nonpartisan civil servants.
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