The Justice Department said more than 320 classified documents have been recovered from Mar-a-Lago, including more than 100 in an FBI search earlier this month.
Tuesday’s dossier represents the Justice Department’s strongest case yet of Trump withholding classified material he had been keeping at Mar-a-Lago in an effort to derail the FBI’s investigation into possible mishandling of classified material.
The Justice Department said Trump pushed an “incomplete and inaccurate account” in his recent court filings about the Mar-a-Lago search.
“The Government provides below a detailed account of the relevant facts, many of which have been made available to correct the incomplete and inaccurate account set forth in the plaintiff’s filings,” prosecutors wrote.
It offers a powerful refutation of criticism of the FBI’s unprecedented search for the home of a former president, and clearly shows how Trump failed to return dozens of classified documents even after his lawyers asserted that he provided all classified materials in his possession.
An image on the last page of the file showing classified documents scattered on the floor of Trump’s office – dotted with classified markings such as “HCS” or classified human sources – showed the sensitivity of the material Trump picked up.
The dispute revolves around Trump’s compliance with a grand jury subpoena, issued in May, requiring him to hand over classified documents from Mar-a-Lago. Prosecutors said Tuesday that some documents were likely removed from the storage room before Trump’s lawyers checked the area, while they were trying to comply with the subpoena. The schedule is necessary, because Trump’s lawyers later told investigators that they had searched the storage area and that all classified documents had been accounted for.
“The government has also developed evidence that government records may have been concealed and removed from the storage room and that there are likely to be efforts to obstruct the government’s investigation,” prosecutors wrote. “This included evidence indicating that the boxes in the storage room had not been returned prior to counsel’s review.”
In its objection to Trump’s request, the Justice Department says the former president lacks standing on presidential records “because those records do not belong to him,” since presidential records are considered the property of the government.
The Presidential Records Act states that “[t]The Department of Justice, which brought the suit, says the United States “has ‘total ownership, possession and control’.”
Trump has argued that his constitutional rights have been violated and that some of the documents seized earlier this month contain material under privilege – particularly executive privilege.
Judge Eileen Cannon, who has already indicated she is inclined to accede to Trump’s request for third-party supervision of documents seized by the FBI Mar-a-Lago, has ordered the Department of Justice to file the file.
The Special Instructor’s role is to filter out any material that is seized in research that does not belong to the investigators because of privilege. Special professors have been used in high-profile cases before, but usually in cases where the FBI is looking for a lawyer’s office or home and there is a need to filter material on attorney-client privilege. Trump’s request focused on the need to protect documents relating to executive privilege from his conduct as president.
Signs from Cannon, a Trump appointee, that she was leaning toward appointing a special master in the Mar-a-Lago search, have raised eyebrows among legal observers. For example, Trump submitted his application for the appointment after two weeks of searching for his Florida home, risking the possibility that the Justice Department had already completed the bulk of the review. Second, Trump and the judge both referred to civil rules regarding special key appointments, when a search warrant arises in a criminal context.
Since the August 8 search, a number of secret court files that the Justice Department filed for the arrest warrant have been made public in part due to a transparency bid filed in court by several media organizations, including CNN.
These revised documents revealed that the search was related to the Justice Department’s investigation into alleged violations of the Espionage Act, criminal mishandling of government documents, and obstruction of justice. According to FBI affidavit released last week, an FBI review of 15 funds recovered from the National Archives from Mar-a-Lago in January found 184 documents with hashtags — some of which have been identified as particularly sensitive government documents.
Trump, in his quest for the special tutor, has emphasized in court filings the lack of criminal enforcement in the Presidential Records Act, a Watergate-era law that defines presidential record-keeping. He did not mention the three criminal laws cited by the Ministry of Justice in its order documents. Trump’s lawyers have also asserted his supposed unrestricted ability when he was president to declassify documents, even though the laws involved do not require the materials to be classified.
Trump’s lawyer limits what the Justice Department can consider during a June visit
A senior Justice Department official confirmed that federal investigators were limited in what they could consider when visiting the resort in June — contrary to the Trump team’s account of full cooperation.
Trump’s attorney requested that the FBI come to the resort to pick up the documents after Trump’s team received a grand jury subpoena in May for any materials marked classified, according to the Justice Department.
The Justice Department’s account also undermined claims by Trump and his allies that the former president had declassified the material in question.
“Neither the attorney nor the custodian asserted that the former president declassified the documents or confirmed any claim for executive privilege,” the lawsuit said. Instead, the attorney dealt with them in a way that attorney suggested the documents were labeled: the production included a single Redweld envelope, wrapped twice in tape, containing the document.
In the Justice Department’s account, Trump’s lawyer said all documents left from the Trump White House are held in storage at Mar-a-Lago. “The lawyer further explained that there are no other records stored in any private office or anywhere else in the building, and that all available boxes have been searched,” the recording read.
Prosecutors confirmed Trump’s assertion that visiting Department of Justice and FBI officials were then allowed to visit the storage area.
“But crucially, the former president’s advisor expressly prohibited government employees from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, and gave the government no opportunity to confirm that there were no documents bearing the hashtags,” the Justice Department said.
The Ministry of Justice reveals the actions related to the Mar-a-Lago search taking place in the capital
The Department of Justice confirmed that grand jury subpoenas had been issued in its investigation, and in doing so, prosecutors indicated that procedures related to the search were unfolding in secret in federal court in Washington, D.C.
Referring to a subpoena issued in May regarding “[a]New York and all documents or writings in the custody or control of Donald J. Trump and/or the office of Donald J. Trump bearing the hashtags [list of classification markings]”The Department of Justice said in a footnote that Chief Justice Beryl Howell has authorized it to release the subpoenas to the grand jury. Its reference notes that in addition to Magistrates Bruce Reinhart and Cannon in Florida, a third of the judge is now involved in the Justice Department’s investigation.
“The former president disclosed the subpoena and subpoena to obtain video footage of the building in his files submitted to this court,” the footnote reads. “Then, on August 29, 2022, Chief Justice Howell for the District of Columbia authorized the government to disclose to this court the subpoenas and the matter discussed here.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
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