According to a stinging court document submitted by federal prosecutors late Tuesday, former president Donald Trump and his advisers repeatedly refused to turn over highly classified government documents despite being served with subpoenas and promising a “diligent search” had been made. This led to an FBI raid of his Florida home, where more than 100 additional classified documents were discovered.
The document recounts the astonishing story of the government’s repeated attempts to seize secret national security documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. It alleges that some of the boxes kept in a storage room “were not returned before counsel’s assessment” of the material, implying that someone was still moving or concealing documents. At the same time, the government demanded that all classified material be secured in the storage room.
In the filing, it is stated that when agents carried out the August 8 court-ordered search, they discovered information so sensitive that “even the FBI counterintelligence personnel and DOJ attorneys conducting the review required additional clearances before they were permitted to review certain documents.”
A picture of several files with the designation “Top Secret” scattered out on a carpet is included in the filing, which claims that the container in Trump’s office contained the papers.
The lawsuit also makes public for the first time the text of a written statement made by Trump’s aides to the Justice Department on June 3 stating they had thoroughly searched for any secret information. The lawsuit says that in addition to the 184 classified materials found in boxes given to the National Archives earlier this year, the former president’s attorney also turned over around 50 more.
However, more than 100 additional classified documents were discovered when FBI agents searched the Trump property in August. This, according to prosecutors, “calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter.”
The document was submitted to U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon ahead of a meeting on Thursday regarding a request by Trump’s attorneys to appoint a special master to examine the records. Possibly protected materials found during the search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence on August 8 have been thoroughly investigated, according to the Justice Department’s notification to the court on Monday.
Two weeks after the search, Trump’s legal team submitted the request for a special master, branding the court-authorized law enforcement activity as a “shockingly aggressive” political raid. The former president’s legal counsel alleged that federal agents illegally seized records.
However, the main thrust of their argument was the claim that executive privilege applied to much of the data that had been confiscated since it contained presidential communications. Typically, executive privilege is used to protect communications from Congress or the courts, not from another administrative branch agency like the Justice Department.
In their brief on Tuesday night, Federal prosecutors responded to what they called “the broad, baseless claims levied against the government” by Trump’s attorneys. The government said that since their examination of the materials was already complete, the request for a special master was unnecessary. According to the brief, the judge should deny Trump’s demands for the documents to be returned because they are the government’s property rather than his.
Despite stating on Saturday that she was inclined to appoint a special master, Cannon, who was nominated to the court by Trump in 2020, added that her ruling “should not be read as a final determination on Plaintiff’s Motion.”
The latest petition states that federal agents removed 33 items of evidence during the search, most of which were boxes, from Mar-a-Lago. It also says that 13 packs included classified information, some of which were deemed top secret. The director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, informed legislators on Friday that American intelligence specialists would analyze the classified files to ascertain whether there would be any danger to national security if their contents were made public.
The legal team for Donald Trump is asking for a special master, or independent expert, to return any things that were taken from their client’s property but were not covered by the search warrant and to set aside any documents that should be exempt from governmental inspection due to presidential privilege.
The agents searching Mar-a-Lago were looking for “physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation” of three federal laws, including a provision of the Espionage Act that forbids gathering, transmitting, or losing information related to national defense, according to a partially redacted affidavit that was unsealed on Friday. The warrant also refers to regulations prohibiting document destruction and the concealing or modifying of official records.
The search is a component of a criminal investigation into whether Trump and his associates seized secret government documents and failed to return them all, despite requests from senior officials, and whether anybody obstructed government efforts to retrieve all of the classified material.