Former US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is on display in Palm Beach, Florida, February 8, 2021.
Marco Bello | Reuters
The Justice Department revealed late Tuesday that the FBI seized more than 100 classified documents from former President Donald Trump’s Florida home earlier this month when the Department urged a judge to overturn Trump’s request for those and other data. to be judged, rejected by a special master.
The Justice Department argued in a court filing that Trump does not have the legal standing to appoint a special master. Appointing that watchdog could harm national security, the agency warned.
The department also said it has evidence that government documents were likely hidden and removed from a storage room at Trump’s home at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, “and efforts were likely made to further the government’s investigation.” to hinder.”
Trump had filed suit to prevent the Justice Department from further investigating materials taken in the raid until a court-appointed special master can analyze them. That step is usually taken when there is a chance that some evidence will have to be withheld from prosecutors because of various legal privileges.
“For starters, the former president has no right to seek judicial assistance or oversight on presidential documents because those records do not belong to him,” the DOJ wrote to Judge Aileen Cannon in the U.S. District Court in southern Florida.
Cannon, who has been appointed by Trump, held a hearing at a courthouse in West Palm Beach at 1 p.m. ET Thursday. Trump’s legal team has until Wednesday night to respond to the DOJ’s latest submission.
Documents seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago
Source: Ministry of Justice
The DOJ is conducting a criminal investigation into the removal of White House documents and their transmission to Trump’s residence at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach when he left office.
By law, presidential records must be turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration when a president leaves office.
The National Archives and Records Administration retrieved 15 boxes of records from Mar-a-Lago in January. The following month, NARA sent a referral to the DOJ that the records contained “top secret documents mixed with other records,” according to the affidavit used to obtain the warrant for Trump’s August 8 search.
The DOJ said in Tuesday night’s filing that the FBI had “uncovered multiple sources of evidence suggesting … that classified documents were left behind” at Mar-a-Lago.
“The government has also developed evidence that government documents were likely hidden and removed from the storage area and that attempts were likely made to obstruct the government’s investigation,” the DOJ wrote.
That evidence contradicted an affidavit of certification on June 3 from the custodian of Trump’s records, which claimed that “all” documents responding to a grand jury subpoena had been handed over, the DOJ wrote.
The August search “cast serious doubts on the certification claim … that there had been ‘a diligent investigation’ of records responding to the grand jury subpoena,” according to the DOJ file.
Of the evidence collected in that raid, “more than a hundred unique documents bearing classification markings — i.e. more than double the amount produced on June 3, 2022, in response to the grand jury subpoena — were seized” , the DOJ wrote.
“That the FBI has recovered twice as many documents with classification markings in hours as the ‘diligent search’ that counsel for the former president and other representatives had for weeks to seriously question the statements in the June 3 certification and raises doubts.” about the degree of cooperation in this matter,” the DOJ wrote.
Prosecutors also argued against appointing a special captain, saying it is “unnecessary” and that it would “significantly harm important government interests, including national security interests”.
That damage could include hindering the intelligence community’s “ongoing assessment of the national security risk,” which may have been caused by “improper storage of these highly sensitive materials,” the DOJ argued.
The prosecutors concluded that Cannon must deny Trump’s requests “and must refuse to demand the return of seized items, order further assessment of seized material, or appoint a special master.”
Tuesday’s filing came a day after the Justice Department told Cannon that the assessment of the seized materials was complete.
The DOJ told the court Monday that a law enforcement team had identified a “limited set” of materials that may be protected by attorney-client privilege. That privilege often refers to legal doctrine that protects the confidentiality of communications between a lawyer and his client.
The so-called Privilege Review Team — which is separate from the investigation that led the FBI to search Trump’s residence earlier this month — is following a process to “address potential disputes over privileges,” the DOJ wrote.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or ODNI, is also “leading an intelligence community assessment of the potential risk to national security that would arise from the disclosure of these materials,” the filing said.
Before the DOJ posted its belated response, a group of former administration officials asked the judge to let them file a letter as “amici curiae” — Latin for “friends of the court” — arguing against Trump’s requests.
The group included six former federal prosecutors who served in Republican administrations, as well as former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, who ruled as a Republican but supported President Joe Biden against Trump in 2020.