Nebraska’s GOP House members say they want more DOJ oversight on day Garland speaks
OMAHA — U.S. Rep. Mike Flood, R-Neb., called Thursday for more congressional oversight of the Justice Department after the FBI served a search warrant at a Florida home and business of former President Donald Trump.
Flood acknowledged that some of his 1st District constituents have mixed feelings about federal law enforcement decisions after the FBI investigated his predecessor, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who resigned in March after being convicted of three felonies.
Flood signed onto a letter this week from fellow Republicans on the House Oversight Committee questioning why the National Archives were so adamant about quickly retrieving documents that team Trump allegedly stored at Mar-a-Lago.
“Going to the length of actually executing a search warrant with … federal law enforcement agents at a former president’s residence is something that I think the House Committee on Oversight and Reform must investigate and look into,” he said during an interview.
Flood called the Department of Justice’s decision to seek the warrant “unprecedented.” He said the Attorney General and national archivist should have tried harder to recover the documents by less intrusive means, including by subpoena. The feds later confirmed that they did take that step.
Flood, who was headed to Washington, D.C., spoke to reporters Thursday at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield, hours before Attorney General Merrick Garland answered some of the questions posed by his GOP critics during a rare press conference by the nation’s top prosecutor.
Garland, who defended the Justice Department, confirmed New York Times reporting that said investigators had sought and received a subpoena months before seeking the search warrant in Florida. The story said Trump and his team did not return all of the documents sought, including some that were marked classified.
Bacon, Smith weigh in
Garland said he would have said nothing and let the department’s court filings speak for themselves if not for the former president’s decision to publicize the FBI search. On Thursday, Garland announced a push to make the warrant open to the public and said he signed off on seeking the search warrant.
Flood, reached for follow-up after the Garland press conference, said he and other GOP members of the Oversight and Reform Committee still had more questions than the Attorney General answered in his five-minute statement. He said the committee needs to be briefed.
Flood was not alone in his criticisms of the department.
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who represents Nebraska’s Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District, also pressed for more information. Before Garland spoke, he, too, suggested a subpoena would have been smarter.
“We still have no reason as to why the FBI raided a former President’s house,” Bacon said. “There needs to be full transparency, including the release of the affidavit provided to secure the warrant. The American people deserve answers.”
Bacon on Friday expressed frustration that the feds are leaking information to the press about what might have been sought in Florida but aren’t yet publicly discussing the facts. He said the FBI needs to help people by being open about the reasons behind the search.
Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., who represents Nebraska’s sprawling, largely rural 3rd District, described the Mar-a-Lago search in a tweet as an “abuse of power” and said he supports House GOP efforts to “get to the bottom of this shameless politicization.”
Some familiar names from Trump World signed onto the Oversight Committee’s letter. Among them were Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Jody Hice of Georgia.
FBI, more political?
They and other Republicans in Congress have questioned why the Justice Department has seemed less aggressive when investigating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private emails and Hunter Biden’s foreign business deals.
Flood was asked whether he believes, like some in the House GOP, that the FBI is becoming more political. He said he respects the work of law enforcement officers. He said he is more interested in who approved seeking the search warrant.
“These are Joe Biden’s executive branch agencies that performed this raid,” Flood said of the president. “We have the potential to erode trust in public institutions if this wasn’t done in a way that the American people feel comfortable with.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray, who visited Omaha this week, pushed back on the idea that agents were doing anything but their jobs.
“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 … ,” he said in a statement. “Every day I see the men and women of the FBI doing their jobs professionally and with rigor, objectivity, and a fierce commitment to our mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.”
Flood, of Norfolk, faces Democratic State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln in November. The rematch of the special election race will decide who represents the Lincoln-centric 1st District for the next two years starting in January.
Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general who lives in Sarpy County, faces State Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha in the 2nd District race. Smith, of Gering, faces nominal competition in the 3rd District, which is the state’s most conservative.