Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers Monday derided the probe into top-secret documents stashed at his Florida resort as “misguided” and urged a judge not to limit the mandate of a special master to review them.
Team Trump called the investigation a “storage dispute” and referred to the seized documents as “purported classified records,” even though the prosecutors say highly sensitive national security information was unearthed by the FBI in its Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.
“This investigation of the 45th president of the United States is both unprecedented and misguided,” they wrote. “In what at its core is a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control.”
The lawyers asserted there is no evidence any of the records were ever disclosed to anyone and said at least some of the records belong to Trump and not to the Justice Department.
“The government wrongfully seeks to criminalize the possession by the 45th president of his own presidential and personal records,” they said.
The 21-page filing marks Trump’s latest effort to stall or derail the criminal investigation into what prosecutors say is illegal retention of national defense information at Mar-a-Lago and possible obstruction of that probe.
The investigation hit a roadblock last week when U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon granted the Trump team’s request for the appointment of an independent arbiter, also known as a special master, to review the seized records and prohibited for now the department from examining the documents for investigative purposes.
The Justice Department has asked the judge to lift that hold as it relates to 100 documents that are marked as classified and said it will appeal the entire ruling.
Prosecutors say its investigation risked being derailed by Cannon’s order, noting that confusion over what it means had already forced the intelligence community to pause a separate risk assessment it was doing.
But Trump’s lawyers said Cannon should not permit the FBI to resume its review of classified records.
“The government seeks to block a reasonable first step towards restoring order from chaos and increasing public confidence in the integrity of the process,” the lawyers wrote.
The two sides have not yet agreed who the special master may be with each side submitting two different names of legal experts.
In its filing Monday, the Trump team again voiced a broad view of presidential power, asserting that a president has an “unfettered right of access” to his presidential records and absolute authority to declassify any information without the “approval of bureaucratic components of the executive branch.”
It pointedly did not repeat Trump’s own public claims that he had actually declassified them.
The Justice Department has said Trump had no right to hold onto the presidential documents after he left the White House. It notes that the criminal laws that may have been broken do not require that the records in question be classified.
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