Trump legal team continues push for special master in wake of Mar-a-Lago obstruction claim
Trump's lawyers did not address the DOJ's obstruction allegations or why the ex-president possessed the documents at an unsecure beach resort.
- A scheduled hearing is set for today to weigh the appointment of a third-party special master.
- Trump's team again attacked the investigation, but didn't directly address key DOJ accusations.
- DOJ said Tuesday it's "likely" documents at Mar-a-Lago were hidden there were attempts to obstruct.
Donald Trump's legal team continued to press for the appointment of special master to review documents seized in the government's search of the former president's Mar-a-Lago estate, asserting that the law enforcement action was aimed at "criminalizing a former president."
On the eve of a scheduled hearing to weigh the appointment of a third-party screener, Trump's attorneys argued that the search was "legally unsupported" and suggested that their client maintained a privilege to possess the documents even after leaving office.
"The convoluted theory, which appears to be that the Biden administration will not allow President Trump to assert executive privilege and consequently he has 'no right' to possess Presidential documents, and that, therefore, he has no standing to object to their seizure, is contrary to the well-established doctrine of standing," the attorneys argued. "It is the reasonable expectation of privacy in one’s home that triggers the obvious standing of the homeowner to contest a search on those premises."
There is no evidence that Trump held an executive privilege to maintain the documents.
Meet Trump's cast of record keepers:Group of lawyers and political acolytes have taken on significance amid Mar-a-Lago probe
Digging into the Mar-a-Lago photo:What Trump Mar-a-Lago photo shows vs. what we know about handling classified documents
Trump's attorneys also continued to assert that they had been cooperative with the National Archives and Records Administration in a months-long effort to retrieve a trove of classified documents despite the Justice Department's wholesale rejection of that argument.
"Three weeks after an unprecedented, unnecessary, and legally unsupported raid on the home of a President — and possibly a candidate against the current chief executive in 2024 — the Government, represented by the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office, has filed an extraordinary document with this Court, suggesting that the DOJ, and the DOJ alone, should be entrusted with the responsibility of evaluating its unjustified pursuit of criminalizing a former President’s possession of personal and Presidential records in a secure setting," the lawyers argued.
The response comes just hours after the Justice Department asserted in an extraordinary court filing of its own that the Trump team had likely concealed and moved a trove of government records to obstruct the government's investigation into the handling of classified documents.
Who is Trump lawyer Christina Bobb?:How the former OAN host took the spotlight in the Mar-a-Lago investigation
Trump's lawyers did not specifically address the Justice Department obstruction allegations, or explain why the former president remained in possession of the documents at an unsecure beach resort.
The former president's actions, Justice officials said, prompted the government's unprecedented decision to search Trump's Florida estate on Aug. 8, where FBI agents recovered in excess of 100 classified documents among more than 30 boxes carted away from the former president's property.
The government's obstruction case:DOJ mapped out strong obstruction evidence against Trump, aides in filing, experts say
Attached to the Justice filing was a striking photograph of top secret records, some of them designated at the highest classifications in government, unfoldered and strewn about a carpeted room, next to a box of Time magazine covers.
While Trump’s lawyers have claimed that they had been engaged in “months of cooperation" prior to the FBI’s August search, Justice officials offered a detailed and potentially damning counterpoint.
After serving a May subpoena at Trump’s property, Justice officials said Trump’s lawyers had certified in June that they had turned over the last of all documents sought by the government. Among them: 38 documents bearing classification markings, including five marked as confidential; 16 documents marked as secret; and 17 documents marked as top secret.
That seizure followed an initial recovery of 15 boxes containing all levels of classified records that were transferred from Mar-a-Lago back to the National Archives.
There were privileged documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago:DOJ says some privileged documents identified in screening of seized Mar-a-Lago documents
"Counsel for the former President offered no explanation as to why boxes of government records… remained at the premises nearly five months after the production of (the 15 boxes of documents) and nearly one-and-a-half years after the end of the Administration," according to the court filing.
Yet even after the June document recovery, Justice officials said they found evidence that more documents remained at the property and, equally troubling, that efforts had been made to possibly "obstruct" the federal inquiry.
“The government also developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the (Mar-a-Lago) Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” the Justice filing stated.
During the Aug. 8 search, Justice officials said they recovered more than 100 documents with classified markings, more than twice the number turned over in June in response to the government subpoena.
The DOJ Mar-a-Lago photo annotated: What can we see in the rare photo? What does it mean?
"The search cast serious doubt on the claim... that there had been 'a diligent search' for records responsive to the grand jury subpoena," Justice officials argued. "In the storage room alone, FBI agents found 76 documents bearing classification markings.
"That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the 'diligent search' that the former President’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform calls into serious question the representations made" in June when Trump's attorneys certified that all of the records had been turned over to investigators.
Read the court filing: