WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald J. Trump’s legal team aggressively renewed its push Wednesday for an independent arbitrator to review documents the FBI seized from its Aug. 8 search of his Florida residence, telling a federal judge who had simply owned “his own presidential property.” records.”
In an 18-page filing, Trump’s lawyers suggested that by undertaking what they described as an “unprecedented, unnecessary and legally unsupported raid” on Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s home and club in Palm Beach, Florida , the Department of Justice was “criminalizing the possession of personal and presidential records of a former president in a secure environment.”
Judge Aileen M. Cannon, Trump’s appointee to hear the request, said over the weekend that she was inclined to appoint an outside expert, known as a special expert, in the case but wanted to hear first from the Justice Department, which opposed Trump’s request in a lengthy presentation Tuesday night.
A hearing is scheduled for Thursday in US District Court in West Palm Beach.
Mr. Trump’s legal team’s characterization that the Trump administration’s presidential documents were his own records clashed with the Presidential Records Act of 1978. It makes clear that the government, not a president or former president, owns the files of the White House generated during his time. in the office. (If Mr. Trump also had files generated by other agencies and departments, they were never understood to be the property of presidents.)
More about the Trump documents investigation
Trump’s lawyers argued that the Presidential Records Act has no enforcement mechanism, suggesting the government had no basis to seize the files Trump took to Mar-a-Lago and failed to return them even after repeated requests for the National Archives and a subpoena from the Department of Justice.
“The law encourages a former president to interact with the archivist to ensure the preservation of presidential records, but does not require the former president to take any particular action with respect to those records,” the attorneys wrote.
The report discounted the fact that a coroner who issued the Mar-a-Lago search warrant did not do so on the basis of the Presidential Records Act, but rather other laws against concealment of government records. These include the Espionage Act, which criminalizes the unauthorized retention of secrets and potentially dangerous national security secrets.
While the Espionage Act was written before the classification system was established and makes no reference to the classification status of such information, Mr. Trump claimed that he had a standing order to declassify any documents he brought into his residence.
No significant evidence has surfaced to suggest such a warrant existed, and the government filing on Tuesday noted that Trump’s attorneys never made such a claim prior to the search. That included when Trump’s lawyers personally served confidential documents in response to a subpoena in June.
In the special master case, even in Wednesday’s filing, Trump’s lawyers again stopped short of claiming that he had declassified all the documents; Lying on court documents can lead to professional penalties for lawyers. In fact, Trump’s lawyers said they thought “it would be appropriate for the special master to have a top-secret clearance.”
Three of Trump’s attorneys, Lindsey Halligan, James Trusty and M. Evan Corcoran, were listed in the filing. The lawyer Trump hired this week, Christopher M. Kise, former Florida attorney general, what do I know.
Mr. Trump’s presentation also made more specific arguments for appointing a special teacher even though his request was so related that the FBI had already reviewed all the documents it seized from Mar-a-Lago. The arguments included proposals for rules that would govern the work of the special master.
While previous filings had only argued that the special master could leak anything subject to executive privilege (confidential internal deliberations in the executive branch), the new filing also said that material potentially subject to attorney-client privilege should also be withheld from researchers. (The FBI has said it already is.)
But just as the Justice Department used its Tuesday report to go beyond the narrow topic of a special teacher to reveal new details about Trump’s handling of sensitive documents, the former president’s own presentation at times seemed geared as much to public relations and legal matters. arguments
The filing came on the same day that Trump lashed out at a photograph the Justice Department included in his filing, an evidentiary photo the FBI had taken of various folders labeled “Top Secret” and “Secret” laid out on a rug. . The office was searching what was inside one of the boxes, labeled Box 2A, before removing it from Trump’s personal office in Mar-a-Lago, where the office had found it.
Apparently upset that people might be confused into thinking he had “carelessly” stored the files on the floor, Trump declared that he had instead stored them in “cardboard boxes.”
In its filing, the Justice Department detailed the various ways Trump and his lawyers stymied the administration’s attempts to retrieve documents he had taken with him to Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House in January 2021.
Starting in May 2021, the National Archives, later joined by federal prosecutors, repeatedly tried to retrieve missing records, including some marked highly classified. But even though Trump allowed the archives to retrieve 15 boxes in January after eight months of pleading, and even though his representatives returned more in June after a grand jury subpoena while claiming there were none left, he still kept more.
Calling out the Justice Department for resorting to searching his residence to retrieve additional documents, Trump’s lawyers blamed the government. The National Archives, they said, instead “should simply have followed ‘Mr. Trump’ in a good faith effort to secure the recovery of the presidential records.”