Prosecutors revealed new details about the ongoing criminal investigation into Trump’s mishandling of classified documents taken from the White House to his resort and home in Florida. Trump and his allies have denied any wrongdoing.
In all, the US government has recovered more than 320 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago since January, including more than 100 seized in the August search, the DOJ says.
The filing comes in response to Trump’s bid for a “special master” in a civil suit against the Justice Department, just weeks after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago. The judge handling the case, a Trump appointee, said his “initial intent” is to bring in a special master. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
Some key takeaways from the filing, what we learned and where we go from here.
Documents may have been moved and hidden from investigators
The Justice Department filed on Tuesday that documents were “possibly hidden and removed” from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago as part of an effort to “obstruct” the FBI’s investigation.
What’s more, the DOJ said the search “casts serious doubt” on his attorneys’ claims that there was an “assertive search” to return classified material in response to a grand jury subpoena.
A Trump lawyer signed a statement to the Justice Department in June saying all classified material at Mar-a-Lago had been returned.
“The FBI recovered twice as many documents in a matter of hours as the former president’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to seriously question the representations made in the June 3 testimony, in a matter of hours that would have exceeded the ‘substantial search.’ The degree of cooperation in this matter raises doubts,” the DOJ wrote.
DOJ Rejects Trump Criticisms and Lies About FBI Search
The Justice Department has given federal investigators a chance to retaliate against Trump, his lawyers, and his political allies, who have slammed the unprecedented FBI raid on his home, filing multiple claims.
The DOJ filing “contains a detailed recitation of relevant facts, many of which are provided to correct the incomplete and inaccurate narratives set forth in plaintiffs’ filings.”
The filing cited several examples refuting claims from Trump’s team about the search and what happened before it.
For example, a top DOJ official argues that federal investigators were limited in what they could see during a visit to the Mar-a-Lago resort in June — contrary to the Trump team’s narrative of full cooperation.
Trump lawyers have not said the documents are classified
The DOJ’s account undermined claims by Trump and his allies that the former president classified the materials in question.
“While preparing the documents, neither the attorney nor the defense asserted that the former president classified the documents or asserted any claim for executive privilege,” the filing said.
“Instead, counsel handled the documents in such a way as to advise them that they were classified: the product consisted of a single redveld envelope, double-wrapped in tape, containing the document,” the lawyers added.
A photo is worth a thousand words
The final page of the 54-page court filing included a photograph showing a stack of classified documents spread across the floor of Trump’s office in Mar-a-Lago, which included highly sensitive documents such as human resources.
The photo drove home the message that the Justice Department appeared to offer the strongest defense of its search Tuesday.
The government seized documents from Mar-a-Lago three times this year: Trump voluntarily turned over 15 boxes to the National Archives in January, Trump’s team turned over some items under subpoena in June, and FBI agents seized another 33 boxes. Look for Mar-a-Lago starting this month.
FBI agents recovered 100 personally classified documents during an Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago, prosecutors said.
Trump has attacked the FBI for taking his passports, but they were later returned, saying they were seized outside the scope of the warrant and improperly.
But the passports were found in a desk drawer, which contained confidential documents, the government insisted, adding that government records “come with other documents”.
“The location of the passports is relevant evidence in an investigation into the unauthorized retention and mishandling of national security information; nevertheless, the government decided to return the passports at its discretion,” the DOJ wrote.
A special master would prevent review of national security risks, DOJ says
The Justice Department argued in its court filing Tuesday that appointing a special counsel to review materials taken from Trump’s home would harm national security.
“Appointing a special master would interfere with the government’s ongoing criminal investigation, and if the special master were tasked with reviewing classified documents – it would prevent the intelligence community from conducting its ongoing review of the national security risk. The materials could result from identifying measures to repair or mitigate damage caused by improper storage,” the Justice Department said. The lawyers wrote.
The department highlighted those risks because the special master argued it was “unnecessary” because DOJ’s internal filtering team had already completed the task of separating privileged documents from material seized for privileged documents, and “the government’s investigative team has already reviewed all remaining materials, including those subject to executive privilege claims.” ”
“Furthermore, the appointment of a special master would impede the government’s ongoing criminal investigation,” the DOJ argued.
The DOJ’s filing sets the stage for Trump’s response and Thursday’s hearing
With the newly filed disclosures, the clock is ticking for Trump to respond in another court filing on Wednesday and then in court on Thursday afternoon.
Trump’s deadline to file a written response to the department’s brief is Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Later on Thursday, both sides will argue before Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Eileen Cannon in federal court in West Palm Beach. On Saturday, Cannon signaled he wanted to grant Trump’s request for a special master, who set the briefing schedule for Saturday. But he said that no final decision has been taken on the matter yet.
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