DOJ Opposes Trump’s Request for Special Master for Seized Documents

Arguing that former President Donald Trump lacks the legal standing for his request, the US Department of Justice urged on Tuesday the judge to reject Trump’s request to have more than 100 classified documents and other records the FBI seized from his Florida home reviewed by a special master.

DOJ warned in its court filing that appointing that watchdog could harm national security. The court filing paints a clear picture of its efforts to retrieve documents from former president Donald Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago estate. 

The Justice Department sought a search warrant for Trump’s residence in Florida after it obtained evidence that highly classified documents were likely concealed and that Trump’s representatives had falsely claimed that all sensitive material had already been returned. 

The department’s filing came in response to Trump’s request for an independent review of the material that the FBI took from his home. But it went far beyond that, with the Justice Department now establishing the clearest picture to date of its efforts to retrieve documents before it took the extraordinary step of searching the private property of a former president. 

The 36-page filing had many new disclosures. Included in that, the Department of Justice released a photo showing Trump had classified documents on the floor of his Mar-a-Lago estate as part of the agency’s response to his petition for a special master to review materials seized by the FBI. 

The striking visual aid showed a photo of at least five yellow folders at Trump’s resort, marked “Top Secret” and another ed one labeled “Secret,” lying on the ground. 

Among the disclosures in the filing was that the search yielded three classified documents in desks inside Trump’s office, with more than 100 documents in 13 boxes with classification markings inside the residence. Some of them were at the top restrictive security levels. 

This was twice the number of classified documents that Trump’s lawyers turned over voluntarily, swearing by oath they had returned all of the material. 

The investigation into Trump holding onto government documents began as a relatively straightforward attempt to recover materials that the National Archives had spent most of 2021 trying to get back. 

It has spiraled. 

The filing on Tuesday made it clear that prosecutors now are unmistakably focused on the possibility Trump and his inner circle took criminal steps to obstruct their investigation. 

Investigators developed evidence that “government records were likely concealed and removed” from the storage room at Mar-a-Lago after the Justice Department sent Trump’s office a subpoena for any remaining documents with classified markings. 

That led prosecutors to conclude that “efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” the government filing said.

But department officials are not expected to file charges imminently, if they ever do. And the specific contents of the materials the government recovered in the search remain unclear — as does what risk to national security Trump’s decision to retain the materials posed.

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