Stefanik, Molinaro question FBI transparency after search of Trump’s home

MaryBeth Shults, left, talks with U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, center, and 19th Congressional District Republican candidate Marc Molinaro at her Canajoharie farm Monday.
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MaryBeth Shults, left, talks with U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, center, and 19th Congressional District Republican candidate Marc Molinaro at her Canajoharie farm Monday.

CANAJOHARIE Neither U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, nor Republican candidate for the 19th Congressional District Marcus Molinaro would comment Monday on whether they think former President Donald Trump should be charged with a crime if it is determined he took federally-protected nuclear documents to his home in Florida.

But, both agreed during campaign stops in Montgomery County Monday that federal law enforcement, and particularly the FBI, need more and better federal oversight, which they promised to give if the Republicans regain the majority in the House of Representatives in this fall’s midterm elections.

Stefanik and Molinaro offered no support for any specific legislation to take away or curb the investigative powers of the FBI, but were critical of the agency’s past actions nonetheless, regardless of whether there was a Republican or Democratic administration in power.

“The FBI is not above scrutiny or oversight,” Stefanik said. “We have oversight of members of Congress, which is why the Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said that Attorney General Merrick Garland and the FBI should preserve all records. We intend to have full transparency and answers that the American people have, but I’ll bring it to a local level in this district — which Marc is going to be on the ballot and I am — the Schoharie County limousine crash, where you lost 20 lives, and whose families are still grieving. We know now that the FBI utilized the limo [company’s owner Shahed Hussein] as an informant for years. Those families deserve answers, which is why I questioned [FBI Director] Chris Wray in an open setting, so yes the FBI should have significant oversight, because it’s paid for with taxpayer dollars, so when you have the FBI targeting the most-likely presidential candidate against Joe Biden, the American people have answers, and those questions deserve to be answered, which is why Republicans will hold them accountable.”

Molinaro turned a phrase often used by critics of former President Trump on its head.

“No one is above the law, not even the FBI, and that ultimately is the issue,” he said.

He said with single-party rule, referencing the fact that Democrats currently control Congress and the White House, there is too little accountability and oversight of the FBI. He said the FBI has used informants in the 19th Congressional District and been unwilling to address accountability.

Stefanik said the U.S. Defense Department is very good about being accountable to Congress, but she can’t say the same for federal law enforcement officials.

“The FBI does not like answering questions, and that is unacceptable,” she said.

Stefanik, however, would not answer the question of what should happen if former President Trump took nuclear documents.

The court-approved search warrant of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence by FBI officials last week resulted in the government finding top secret, secret, and “confidential” documents the former president obtained and took with him after he left the White House in January 2020. The U.S. Justice Department, with court permission, has unsealed the search warrant and revealed the government found the documents it was looking for, but it has not unsealed the affidavit that provided the probable cause for the search.

Since then, the New York Times has reported that an attorney for the former president signed a statement in June indicating that all classified information contained in boxes at Mar-a-Lago had already been returned to the government, which the search proved to be untrue.

The Washington Post has reported that unnamed sources familiar with the FBI investigation said nuclear documents were among those seized from Trump’s home.

On Friday, Trump issued a statement on Truth Social, the social media platform he founded, where he did not deny having taken nuclear documents, but instead accused former President Barack Obama of doing the same thing.

“President Barack Hussein Obama kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified,” Trump said in the post. “How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!”

The National Archives and Records Administration then issued a statement saying what Trump had claimed was not true, and that the agency had held exclusive physical custody of the Obama administration’s records, in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.

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