Trump’s latest salvo in his effort to get a special master was panned as a “PR filing” rather than a serious legal document.
His lawyers recycled claims of political bias and alluded to his possible 2024 presidential run.
Notably, they made no mention of his weeks-long claim that he had broadly declassified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.
Former President Donald Trump’s legal team in a new court filing Wednesday recycled claims of political bias against the Justice Department; alluded to his possible 2024 presidential run; and argued that Trump has the right to sue the Justice Department and seek a court-appointed “special master” in the the wake of the FBI’s search of his Mar-a-Lago estate.
“Three weeks after an unprecedented, unnecessary, and legally unsupported raid on the home of a President — and possibly a candidate against the current chief executive in 2024 — the Government, represented by the Department of Justice … and the United States Attorney’s Office, has filed an extraordinary document with this Court, suggesting that the DOJ, and the DOJ alone, should be entrusted with the responsibility of evaluating its unjustified pursuit of criminalizing a former President’s possession of personal and Presidential records in a secure setting,” the filing read.
It also contested the Justice Department’s earlier assertion that Trump lacked the standing to file a lawsuit against the US, saying that “it is the reasonable expectation of privacy in one’s home that triggers the obvious standing of the homeowner to contest a search on those premises.”
Within minutes of the court papers being filed, however, national security experts and former prosecutors pointed out that, like Trump’s initial lawsuit, it read more like a press release than a legal document.
For one, as the former federal prosecutor Harry Litman wrote, Trump would have standing — or the right to bring a lawsuit — but only if he’s charged and “can’t do it in advance.”
And Andrew Weissmann, a former FBI general counsel who later worked in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, also noted that contrary to the Trump team’s claim that the Justice Department was “criminalizing” him, only a grand jury could indict him.
“That’s is how our justice system works,” Weissmann wrote. “This is another PR filing, not a serious one.”
Notably, Trump’s team made no mention in Wednesday’s filing of his weeks-long assertion that he had broadly declassified all the materials seized from Mar-a-Lago, a claim he was making on Truth Social as recently as Wednesday morning. It also didn’t address the DOJ’s most damning allegation, made in a court filing Tuesday night: that it had evidence of “likely” efforts to obstruct its investigation into Trump’s handling of national security information.
Trump first filed a lawsuit last week requesting a court-appointed “special master” — usually a former judge — to sift through materials that were seized in the search and filter out any that might be privileged. But the Justice Department said in its response Tuesday that Trump isn’t entitled to a special master because the records in question “do not belong to him.”
The FBI recovered more than two dozen boxes of government records, some of which were highly classified and marked top-secret, after executing a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month. That’s in addition to 15 boxes of documents that Trump turned over in January in response to a request from the National Archives.
The department also laid out the most detailed account yet of investigators’ suspicions that Trump and his team misled them when they in a June 3 letter claimed to have returned all classified records stored at Mar-a-Lago to the government after a “diligent search.”
The FBI “recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the ‘diligent search'” that Trump’s lawyer and other representatives “had weeks” to perform, the DOJ said in its response to Trump’s lawsuit. That “calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter.”
Tuesday’s filing from the DOJ was “devastating and merited a serious, precise response,” wrote the longtime former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. But Trump’s response was “long on hyperbole and short on law” and appeared to sidestep “the most damning details.”
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