Prosecutors have worked out new details about the ongoing criminal investigation into Trump’s possible mishandling of classified documents, which he brought from the White House to his Florida resort and home. Trump and his allies have denied any allegation.
In all, the U.S. government has recovered more than 320 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago since January, including more than 100 seized during the August house search, DOJ says.
The filing comes in response to Trump’s bid for a “special master” in a civil lawsuit against the Justice Department, weeks after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago. The judge hearing the case, a Trump-appointed one, has said her “tentative intention” is to bring in a special master. There is a hearing on Thursday.
Here are some key points from the submission, what we learned, and where we’re headed.
Documents have been moved and may be hidden from researchers
Documents were “probably hidden and removed” from a storage facility in Mar-a-Lago as part of an effort to “impede the FBI’s investigation,” the Justice Department said in its file Tuesday.
In addition, the DOJ said the search cast “serious doubt” on its attorneys’ claims that there had been a “diligent search” to return classified material in response to a grand jury subpoena.
A Trump attorney signed a statement to the Justice Department in June that all classified material at Mar-a-Lago had been returned.
“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,” DOJ wrote.
DOJ Rejects Trump’s Criticisms and Falsehoods Over FBI Investigation
The Justice Department filing gave federal investigators the chance to — officially — refute many of the claims Trump, his lawyers and his political allies made when they cracked down on the FBI’s unprecedented search for his residence.
DOJ wrote that the filing included a “detailed recitation of the pertinent facts, many of which have been provided to correct the incomplete and inaccurate story set forth in Plaintiff’s filings.”
The filing cited numerous examples disproving claims made by Trump’s team about the search and what happened leading up to the search.
For example, a senior DOJ official claims federal investigators were limited in what they could see through when they visited the Mar-a-Lago resort in June — contrary to the Trump team’s story of total cooperation.
Trump lawyers did not claim documents had been released
DOJ’s account also undermined Trump’s and his allies’ claims that the former president released the materials in question.
“In submitting the documents, neither counsel nor the custodian claimed that the former president had released the documents or claimed to have any claim to executive privilege,” the filing said.
“Instead, counsel treated them in a way that suggested counsel believed the documents had been classified: The production included a single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape, with the document,” prosecutors added.
A picture is worth a thousand words
The last page of the 54-page lawsuit was a photo showing classified cover pages of documents scattered on the floor of Trump’s office in Mar-a-Lago, including documents containing highly sensitive material such as human sources.
The photo brought home the message that the Justice Department appeared to be making its most robust defense of the search yet on Tuesday.
The administration took documents from Mar-a-Lago into custody three times this year: Trump voluntarily turned over 15 boxes to the National Archives in January, Trump’s team handed in some materials under subpoena in June, and FBI agents took 33 more. boxes during the search for Mar-a-Lago earlier this month.
Prosecutors said FBI agents recovered more than 100 unique classified documents during the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago (Detectives did not disclose how many of these were “top secret”.)
About the passport
Trump has attacked the FBI for confiscating his passports, though they were later returned, claiming they were outside the scope of the warrant and improperly seized.
But the government claimed the passports were found in a cash drawer containing classified documents, with government documents “mixed with other documents.”
“The location of the passports is pertinent evidence in an investigation into unauthorized retention and mishandling of national defense information; nevertheless, the government has decided to return those passports at its discretion,” the DOJ wrote.
A special master would impede assessment of national security risks, DOJ . says
The Justice Department argued in its court filing Tuesday that appointing a special master to oversee the materials extracted from Trump’s residence would damage national security, arguing that it would undermine the intelligence community’s ongoing review of documents filed in Mar-a-Lago were preserved, would slow down.
“The appointment of a special captain would hamper the government’s ongoing criminal investigation and – if the special captain were tasked with reviewing classified documents – would prevent intelligence from conducting its ongoing assessment of the national security risk posed by improper storage. of these highly sensitive materials and identifying measures to repair or mitigate damage caused by improper storage,” Justice Department lawyers wrote.
The department highlighted those risks because it claimed the special captain would be “unnecessary” since the DOJ’s internal filtering team had already finished separating potentially privileged documents from the seized material for privileged documents, and “the investigation team of The government has already reviewed all remaining material, including material that may be subject to claims of executive privilege.”
“In addition, the appointment of a special master would hinder the government’s ongoing criminal investigation,” the DOJ argued.
DOJ’s filing sets the stage for Trump’s response and Thursday’s hearing
With the revelations of the new filing, the clock is ticking for Trump to answer in another court to be filed on Wednesday and then in court on Thursday afternoon.
The deadline for Trump to submit a written response to the department’s letter is 8 p.m. ET Wednesday.
Then, on Thursday, both sides will debate before US District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, at the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach. On Saturday, Cannon indicated that she was inclined to grant Trump’s request for a special master in the order she gave Saturday’s briefing schedule. But she said she hadn’t made a final decision on the matter yet.