Former President Donald Trump’s legal team has responded to a Justice Department lawsuit seeking to block him from getting back confidential records taken from his Mar-a-Lago residence during the FBI’s investigation earlier this month.
In its response, filed in US District Court in southern Florida, Trump’s team insists the FBI raid was “unprecedented, unnecessary and legally unsupportable” and alludes to Trump’s plans to run for president in 2024.
“Three weeks after an unprecedented, unnecessary and legally unwarranted raid on the home of a President — and possibly a candidate against the current CEO in 2024 — the government, represented by the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office, filed a extraordinary brief with this Court, suggesting that the DOJ, and the DOJ alone, should have the responsibility to evaluate its unreasonable pursuit of criminalizing the possession of personal and presidential records by a former President in a secure environment,” the filing states.
The document acknowledges that classified material was found at Trump’s residence, but argues that the National Archives should have expected it to be among the finds in the 15 boxes since they were presidential records. Trump’s team downplayed the Justice Department’s concerns about the recovered material, saying there was “no cause for alarm.”
“The purported justification for initiating this criminal investigation was the alleged discovery of sensitive information contained in the 15 boxes of presidential records,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “But this ‘discovery’ was entirely to be expected, given the very nature of presidential records. Simply put, the idea that the presidential archives would contain sensitive information should never have been cause for alarm.”
Instead, the former president’s lawyers say that under the President’s Act, the National Archives “should have merely pursued … a good faith effort to secure the recovery of the presidential records.”
Trump’s lawyers say there is “no doubt, and indeed broad agreement, that the issues before the Court center on a President’s possession of his own presidential records.”
In its 36-page document released Tuesday night, however, the Justice Department claimed that “those records do not belong to him” and instead belong to the government.
The filings stem from a civil lawsuit filed by Trump in an effort to force a special master to review documents obtained from the former president, which the Justice Department has objected to, along with examining the issue of executive privilege. A special master would be someone independent and appointed by a court. for example, a retired judge.
Trump’s lawyers added that without a special master, prosecutors will “dispute, leak and release” details of their investigation.
Trump’s lawyers also criticized the Justice Department for submitting an image to the court showing “supposedly” classified material strewn about a room at Mar-a-Lago.
“The government’s response gratuitously included a photograph of alleged classified material, pulled from a container and spread out on the floor for dramatic effect,” they write.
On Wednesday, Trump took to his Truth Social platform to claim he had “declassified” the documents before leaving the White House. The DOJ disputed this in its own filing.
A federal judge is expected to decide Thursday whether to appoint a special master in the case. On Saturday, a judge from Florida showed her support for approving Trump’s request.
Speaking to CNN after its release, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe said the response is “all over the map” and called the filing “hysterical.”
“I couldn’t believe what they were saying,” he said. “They despise that it’s not actually his records.”
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