Donald Trump's legal team on Wednesday renewed its request for a third party to review documents FBI agents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate, arguing that left to their own devices, "unchecked investigators" would selectively leak bits of their investigation with no recourse for the former president.
"Left unchecked, the DOJ will impugn, leak, and publicize selective aspects of their investigation with no recourse for [Trump] but to somehow trust the self-restraint of currently unchecked investigators," Trump's attorneys wrote in response to Tuesday night's filing from the Justice Department. "While DOJ may have succeeded in taking a partial filter to their rummaged proceeds, the need for a Special Master remains in place."
Trump's lawyers insisted that appointing a special master would be a "modest step" to ensure their access to a detailed inventory of seized material and allow for independent assessments of attorney-client privilege and determinations of executive privilege.
The Justice Department opposed Trump’s request Aug. 22 for a special master. It said Trump's request was “unnecessary,” adding that granting such a request “would significantly harm important governmental interests, including national security interests.”
The Justice Department also said it had developed evidence “that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” with government records “likely concealed and removed” in the months before the Aug. 8 search.
In a footnote to Wednesday's filing, Trump’s legal team said it will not respond to every allegation in the government’s filing, but it specifically disputed the Justice Department's characterization of a June 3 meeting between Justice Department official Jay Bratt and Trump attorneys Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb.
The government has “significantly mischaracterized” the meeting and may have misled U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart if that description of the meeting was included in the search warrant affidavit that Reinhart signed off on, Trump's attorneys wrote.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, signaled over the weekend that she was inclined to let a third party look over documents to ensure they do not include information protected by attorney-client privilege. Cannon said she would not rule until she hears the government’s arguments at a hearing Thursday in West Palm Beach.
The Justice Department described Tuesday how FBI agents recovered numerous documents “with classification markings” on Aug. 8.
Trump's legal team suggested Wednesday that finding those documents should not be of concern. “Simply put, the notion that Presidential records would contain sensitive information should have never been cause for alarm,” they wrote.
Earlier in the day, Trump criticized the FBI for a photo included in the DOJ filing showing documents and “classified cover sheets recovered from a container” that the government said was in Trump’s “45 office,” a reference to his being the 45th president.
On his social media platform, Trump said: “Terrible the way the FBI, during the Raid of Mar-a-Lago, threw documents haphazardly all over the floor (perhaps pretending it was me that did it!), and then started taking pictures of them for the public to see. Thought they wanted them kept Secret? Lucky I Declassified!”
In a subsequent post about the documents, Trump claimed the FBI agents “took them out of cartons and spread them around on the carpet, making it look like a big ‘find’ for them.”