Washington- In a new lawsuit, former President Donald Trump has filed a motion asking for a special master to be appointed to review the documentsearlier this month. He has also asked the court to block the Justice Department from further reviewing the material until that happens, according to court documents filed Monday.
According to the filing in the Southern District of Florida, attorneys for the former president wrote that a special master — a court-appointed observer who would review the evidence and review its contents for privileged information — is needed to defend Trump’s constitutional rights. after what they called an “unprecedented” law enforcement operation.
Trump’s attorneys are calling for a “careful review process” and asking the Justice Department to provide them with a more detailed description of what the FBI took from its Florida resort and to return any property not within its scope. of the.
That search warrant, approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland and then by the court, and later released to the public at the request of the Justice Department, revealed that investigators were investigating whether federal statutes protecting national defense information were being violated after documents from the Trump White House had been brought in from Washington, DC, to his Palm Beach mansion in January 2021 instead of being deposited with the National Archives, as.
The FBI collected boxes marked top secret, classified and confidential, as well as documents marked “top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information”, photos and information about the president of France, among others, the public disclosure revealed.
Trump’s lawsuit filed Monday calls the search warrant “too broad” and claims investigators took “presumably privileged” documents created during his tenure and as such “it is unreasonable for the prosecutor’s team to review them without meaningful safeguards.” .”
Monday’s filing does not address any reason why Trump brought the White House documents to Mar-a-Lago, and does not refute investigators’ claims that some of the boxes seized by the FBI contained documents related to national security information.
About 150 classified documents were found in the party material Trump initially returned in January, according to a source familiar with the retrieval and another close to Trump. The New York Times first reported the number of classified documents in that first batch. The documents involved have not been disclosed. The Times also reported Monday that since the end of his presidency, the administration has recovered more than 300 documents with secret Trump tags, including January’s material, data provided by Trump aides in June, and what the FBI seized in early August. took from Mar-a-Lago.
CBS News has learned that filtering teams have examined and are continuing to investigate the seized documents to ensure that anything that should not be in government possession is returned. Last week, prosecutors informed Trump’s legal team that the former president’s passports had been swept in the raid andafter being detected by such filtering teams, a law enforcement source confirmed.
But Trump’s legal team argues in its motion for a special master that “[m]”Adequate” safeguards are not acceptable when it comes to not only President Trump’s constitutional rights, but also preserving administrative law.”
Until such care is taken, Trump argues, investigators should be barred from further reviewing the documents and seized materials.
“The Aug. 8 search warrant in Mar-a-Lago was approved by a federal court after it required probable cause determination. The Department is aware of tonight’s motion, said Department of Justice spokesman Anthony Coley. , in a statement: “The United States will file its response in court.”
Trump’s filing also argues that receipt of property in disclosure of the search warrant issued to his legal representatives upon completion of the Aug. 8 search is insufficient and requires more details.
The first page of the filing is based on a political argument, rather than a legal one to try to question the legality of the search.
“Trump is the clear frontrunner in the 2024 Republican presidential election and in the 2024 general election, should he decide to run,” his lawyers argue on page one, before accusing the government of using law enforcement “as a weapon against political purposes” when conducting the Mar-a-Lago search.
In the days following the execution of the search warrant, Garland made an unusual statement to the media to emphasize that the Mar-a-Lago search was a matter of “applying the law evenly.”
“Faithful observance of the rule of law is the basic tenet of the Department of Justice and of our democracy,” the Attorney General said. “Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly, without fear or favor. Justice does. All Americans have the right to an impartial application of the law, to a fair trial of the law, and to the presumption of innocence.”
Nevertheless, in Monday’s filing, the former president said federal investigators “has shown a willingness to treat President Trump differently than any other citizen” and claimed his lawyers tried to pass a message to Garland before the attorney general told the media. made a statement.
According to the complaint, one of Trump’s attorneys spoke to Jay Bratt — head of the Department of Justice’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Division — and said, “President Trump wants the Attorney General to know that he’s heard from people across the country. about the raid,” later adding, “Whatever I can do to bring the heart down, to lower the pressure, let us know.”
Monday’s filing provides other alleged details about communications between Trump’s team and the Justice Department in the run-up to the Aug. 8 Mar-a-Lago search.
On May 11, a federal grand jury issued a subpoena “looking for a document with classification markings,” according to the document, after which Trump says he complied and ordered his staff to search the boxes that had been sent to Florida during the presidential transition. moved. On June 3, at the invitation of Trump’s legal team, Bratt and three FBI agents traveled to Mar-a-Lago, where they retrieved all available documents and searched the room in which they were stored, the filing says.
Weeks later, on June 22, investigators subpoenaed images from Mar-a-Lago’s security cameras.
Federal investigators are nowthey obtained, proving that people in Mar-a-Lago have access to storage rooms where former President Donald Trump’s papers from his residence were kept — including some classified documents, a US official tells CBS News.
The video showing this potential access to a site containing highly sensitive material remains a major concern within the Justice Department, but a source close to Trump’s attorneys said they were aware of the video and warned against not read into it.
The former president’s filing comes as a magistrate judge in the same federal district weighs whether to unlock an edited version of the evidence that led to the Mar-a-Lago search in the first place.
The question is whether the media, and by extension the public, has such a vital interest in viewing the search warrant affidavit — which normally contains specific information about evidence — that Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart should take the unusual step. to release it.
Multiple news organizations, including CBS News, have petitioned the court to unlock the affidavit, but the Justice Department argued that it is necessary to “protect the integrity of an ongoing law enforcement investigation that threatens national security” .
Despite opposition from Justice Department, judge wants to review proposed redactions before making final ruling on what may be unsealed
“I can’t say at this point that partial redactions will be so extensive that they will result in a meaningless disclosure,” Reinhart wrote, addressing the Justice Department’s argument that they would edit the record so heavily that it would become worthless. for the public. “Maybe I’ll eventually come to that conclusion after hearing further from the government.”
Investigative methods and the identities of FBI agents and witnesses are at stake, prosecutors argued, and releasing the file to the public could “cool off” the cooperation of other potential witnesses.
“We demand that all items improperly taken from my home be returned IMMEDIATELY,” Trump said in a statement late Monday.
Andres Triay, Robert Costa and Fin Gomez contributed to this report.