In response to former President Donald Trump’s request that a special master examine classified documents that were retrieved from his Mar-a-Lago property earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has asserted that Trump and his inner circle likely attempted to obstruct the FBI’s investigation into the mishandling of the documents.
Trump asked for a special master — an independent reviewer, typically a former judge — to discern whether or not certain materials retrieved were privileged. In response to the request, the DOJ said that the former president “lacks standing” to make such an ask “because those records do not belong to him”; as presidential records, they belong to the federal government.
The DOJ then explained that a filter team — an independent unit of investigators tasked with removing such information — “has already completed its work of segregating any seized materials that are potentially subject to attorney-client privilege, and the government’s investigative team has already reviewed all of the remaining materials.”
There will be a hearing on the issue on ThursdayThis is the final decision on the special Master, which will likely be made within a few hours.
The DOJ’s brief, which is 36 pages long, details how Trump and his advisers refused to turn over classified documents when originally ordered to do so earlier this year. It also reveals that Trump likely hindered the inquiry into documents he improperly took from the White House.
“Government records were likely concealed and removed,” the DOJ said, adding that “efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”
In June, Trump was ordered by a subpoena to turn over all classified information that remained at Mar-a-Lago. attest that he had searched the premises for any additional classified material. Trump’s lawyers did so, and said that no more documents of a classified nature remained.
The FBI executed a search warrant at the property and discovered more than 100 classified items. This was in response to surveillance footage and a tip by an informant. Later, the FBI confirmed that Trump had classified material stored in areas other than the storage room where he was allowed to temporarily store some records.
A photograph of documents found in Trump’s office was shared in the court filing. Several of the files included headings indicating they were “top secret,” the highest level of classification for government records.
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) August 31, 2022
According to reporting from The Washington Post, at least one of the cover sheets of the docs featured included an “HCS” marking, indicating that it was national intelligence relating to secret human sources.
Trump and his supporters tried to claim that the documents were only mementos of his time in office. According to the DOJ, some of the documents that were retrieved had been classified so they were not easily accessible. some FBI agents had to get special clearancesThey had to wait until August to conduct the search.
Trump loyalists tried to downplay the revelations and GOP members of Congress on the House Judiciary Committee immediately attempted to do the exact same. mocked the image in a tweet.
“That TIME Magazine cover was huge threat [sic] to national security,” the tweet said, following the statement with an emoji indicating that the comment was sarcastic.
Later, the committee errantly claimed in a tweet that the DOJ “did nothing” about documents being missing for 18 months and “dumped” the docs on the floor of Mar-a-Lago “for a photo op.”
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), is actually responsible for the collection. had sought these documents since before Trump’s departure from the White HouseIt was known that Trump kept presidential records in the residence wings of the building. Trump refused to provide the entire 2021 year. NARA warned Congress that Congress would be involved and Trump finally agreed to allow them to access documents in January 2022. Soon after, NARA contacted the DOJ regarding the classified nature of the materials. The DOJ’s attempts to retrieve the documents culminated with the search warrant that was executed at Mar-a-Lago in August, which was deemed necessary by the department due to Trump’s violation of the subpoena.
Trump suggested that the evidence might have been planted in response to the DOJ photograph.
“Terrible the way the FBI, during the Raid of Mar-a-Lago, threw documents haphazardly all over the floor (perhaps pretending it was me that did it!), and then started taking pictures of them for the public to see,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social account. “Thought they wanted them kept Secret? Lucky I Declassified!”
Trump could have declassified these documents if he had. However, neither he nor his legal teams have been able produce a government record. Even if the documents were declassified, however, it’s possible that Trump violated the Espionage Act, which doesn’t differentiate between classified and declassified docsWhen determining whether a crime was committed.
At least 18 of Trump’s former high-level staffers have disputed his claims that he declassified the documents through a “standing order,” and one of the staffers has described the claim as “bullshit.”