In a massive court filing Tuesday night, the Department of Justice said its search of Donald Trump’s Florida residence earlier this month came in response to evidence that the former president had taken steps to conceal his illegal possession of classified documents. In doing so, the filing said, Trump defied a grand jury subpoena and “likely” attempted to obstruct the investigation.
In the filing, Justice Department counterintelligence head Jay Bratt wrote that there was “evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”
Despite sworn denials from Trump’s lawyers, the filing said, several of the boxes recovered in the August search of Mar-a-Lago contained “highly classified records” and investigators “identified items marked as classified national security information, up to the level of Top Secret.”
The filing also includes a photograph taken at the scene that clearly shows a large number of documents marked top secret that were in Trump’s possession.
The paperwork was filed ahead of a hearing scheduled for Thursday to address a request by Trump’s legal team to appoint a Special Master — a third-party lawyer — to examine the documents seized by investigators in the August 9 raid. Trump’s lawyers have alleged that seized documents were actually protected by executive privilege and that federal investigators have no right to them. If granted in full, federal investigators could be forbidden from further reviewing the seized documents until the Special Master finishes an examination.
The Justice Department and most legal experts note that top-secret documents cannot be treated the way Trump is alleged to have done, and that once someone is no longer president they cannot claim executive privilege under any circumstances. The Feds are requesting that the court deny the request for a special master, and say that the request is based on “wide-ranging meritless accusations leveled against the government.”
“Those records do not belong to him,” the filing says. “The Presidential Records Act makes it clear that ‘[t]he United States’ has ‘complete ownership, possession and control of them.'”
The hearing is being presided over by U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Trump appointee who has already indicated she is willing to grant Trump’s request.
“There is no precedent or basis for appointing a Special Master to review documents for executive privilege and barring current Executive law enforcement officials or officers from continuing to access that material, including to assess national security risks,” the filing also says.
Read the full filing here.