Trump’s Legal Jab Left Him Open to Justice Department Strike 

Former President Donald Trump thought he was on the offense when he demanded a federal judge make an independent review of documents seized by the FBI from his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago. 

The move could, at best, delay but not derail an investigation into his handling of the records. 

But on Tuesday night, the Justice Department used a routine court filing in the matter to initiate a blistering counteroffensive that disclosed new evidence that Trump and his legal team may have interfered with the inquiry.

In the filing, in Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, department officials revealed more details about the classified materials that Trump had taken home from the White House. 

This included a remarkable photograph of several classified files lying scattered across the floor of Mar-a-Lago.  

In what read at times like a road map for a potential prosecution down the road, the filing also laid out evidence that Trump and his lawyers may have obstructed justice.

News analysis shows that it was as if Trump did not fully grasp the potential hazards of his most recent legal move, and actually cracked the door open for the Justice Department to push past him and seize the initiative. 

Experts said the Trump team has gotten much more than they bargained for. 

Federal prosecutors do not appear to be close to a decision about whether to charge Trump or anyone else in the documents case yet. It also is not clear yet what harm, if any, was done to national security by Trump keeping classified documents inside of his homes rather than the government buildings. 

Bringing a new case focused on the documents found at Mar-a-Lago could be politically fraught, given that Trump seems determined to run a third time for the White House.

Taken at face value, Trump’s request for a special master was an effort to claw back presidential records that he and his lawyers contended were protected by executive privilege. 

But if it is successful, it could also slow down the Justice Department’s inquiry into whether he had wrongfully kept the material in the first place and subsequently interfered with the investigation.

The Justice Department rebutted the first claim Tuesday night by pointing out that Trump, as a former president, did not have the power to assert executive privilege over the documents when federal prosecutors — current members of the executive branch — had a court-ordered warrant to obtain them. 

The brief also noted that a delay for a special master review would be unnecessary given prosecutors had already completed their own review.

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