The legal filing from former President Donald Trump’s lawyers this week seeking to have classified documents removed from his Mar-a-Lago estate returned to him appears to include arguments that are admissions from him that the documents do not actually belong to him, but to the federal government.
Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent and former associate dean at Yale Law School, made the contention this week, following the filing by Trump’s legal team on Monday.
Among the many claims Trump is making in his lawsuit seeking the documents’ return, he is saying that he has “executive privilege” to continue holding them. This argument suggests that the classified material was originated from the executive branch, and not from him personally.
In other words, while the documents may have been produced during his presidency, that doesn’t mean he is the owner of them.
“If he’s acknowledging that he’s in possession of documents that would have any colorable claim of executive privilege, those are by definition presidential records and belong at the National Archives,” Rangappa said to The Guardian.
Although former presidents have some limited ways to claim executive privilege, ultimately only the current president — in this case, President Joe Biden — The final decision on what material falls within this purview is made by the author..
Such an argument by Trump’s lawyers is an improper one for them to be making in this case, Rangappa said, and one that inadvertently suggests that Trump’s actions were illegal.
“It’s not clear that executive privilege would even be relevant to the particular crime he’s being investigated for and yet in this filing, he basically admits that he is in possession of them, which is what the government is trying to establish,” she explained.
Trump’s legal motion is asking for a special master to look through the documents before investigators do. This figure, typically a former judge would examine evidence to determine whether any types of privilege (including attorney client privilege) should prevent investigators from inspecting the documents.
A Department of Justice (DOJ) “filter team,” separate from the team investigating Trump, is already reviewing records to determine if there is privileged materialMar-a-Lago documents. It is not uncommon to ask for the involvement of an expert master in these circumstances. However, it is unusual to make the request after the material has been seized. This makes it difficult to claim that this is a sensitive matter.
Trump claims in his lawsuit that he has been “fully cooperative” with investigators in returning classified documents he took from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. But the series of events of the past weeks and the DOJ’s actionsThroughout the year, however, it seems otherwise.
After the National Archives visited Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida home, demanding classified documents, Trump returned 15 boxes. After serving Trump with a subpoena, the DOJ found 26 more boxes and ordered him to return any additional classified material he held on to. Trump was also given a subpoena directing him to return any other classified documents that he may have or had come across.
After surveillance footage of Mar-a-Lago was captured, and an informant who had knowledge of the property’s contents alerted the DOJ, Trump was found to have more documents than he previously disclosed, a search warrant for Trump was obtained and executed earlier in the month. In that raid, another 20 boxes of classified documents could be retrieved.