Trump files motion on Mar-a-Lago search

Washington— In a new lawsuit, former President Donald Trump has filed a motion asking that a special master be appointed to review the documents seized by the FBI at his Mar-a-Lago residence earlier this month. He also asked the court to block the Justice Department from further reviewing the documents until that happens, court documents filed Monday reveal.

According to the filing in the Southern District of Florida, attorneys for the former president wrote that a special master — a court-appointed monitor who would review the evidence and scrutinize its contents for any inside information — is needed to protect Trump’s constitutional rights, following what they called an “unprecedented” policing operation.

Calling for a “careful review process,” Trump’s lawyers are also asking the Justice Department to provide them with a more detailed account of what the FBI took from his Florida compound and to return any property not falling within of the scope of the law. Search warrant.

The search warrant, approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland and later by the court, then made public at the request of the Justice Department, revealed that investigators were looking into whether federal laws protecting national defense information had been breached. breached after documents from Trump’s White House were brought in. of Washington, DC, to his Palm Beach mansion in January 2021 instead of being deposited with the National Archives, as federal law requires.

The FBI collected boxes marked top secret, secret and confidential, as well as documents marked “compartmentalized top secret/sensitive information”, photos and information about the president of France, among other things, the public disclosure revealed. .

Trump’s lawsuit filed Monday calls the search warrant “overbroad” and alleges that investigators took “allegedly privileged” documents created during his tenure and as such “it is unreasonable to allow the team prosecution to examine them without significant safeguards”.

Monday’s filing does not address any reasoning for Trump to bring the White House documents to Mar-a-Lago in the first place, and does not refute investigators’ claims that some of the boxes seized by the FBI contained documents. related to national security. information.

About 150 classified documents were found in the batch of documents Trump originally returned in January, according to a source close to the recovery and another close to Trump. The New York Times first reported the number of classified documents in this first batch. It was not revealed what kind of documents it was. The Times also reported on Monday that the government had recovered more than 300 documents with classified Trump marks since the end of his presidency, including material from January, files provided by Trump aides in June and what the FBI said. seized early August from Mar-a-Lac.

Mar-a-Lago
Former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images


CBS News has learned that screening teams have reviewed and continue to review seized documents to ensure that anything that should not be in the government’s possession is returned. Last week, prosecutors informed Trump’s legal team that passports belonging to the former president were, they say, taken during the raid and were then fired after being detected by such screening teams, a police source confirmed.

But Trump’s legal team argues in its motion for a special master that “[m]”Adequate” safeguards are not acceptable when the issue under consideration involves not only President Trump’s constitutional rights, but also the preservation of executive privilege.”

Until those precautions are taken, Trump argues, investigators should be barred from further examining seized documents and materials.

“The August 8 search warrant at Mar-a-Lago was authorized by a federal court after the required finding of probable cause. The department is aware of tonight’s motion, the department spokesperson said. Justice Anthony Coley in a statement, “The United States will file its response in court.”

Trump’s filing also argues that the property receipt included in the search warrant disclosure that was provided to his legal representatives at the end of the Aug. 8 search is insufficient and requires further detail.

The first page of the file relies on a political argument rather than a legal argument in an attempt to cast doubt on the legality of the search.

‘Trump is the clear front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary and the 2024 general election, should he choose to run,’ his lawyers claim on the front page, before accusing the government of using force order “as a political weapon”. purposes” in carrying out the search for Mar-a-Lago.

In the days following the execution of the search warrant, Garland made an unusual statement to the media to emphasize that the search at Mar-a-Lago was a matter of “uniform law enforcement.”

“Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the fundamental tenet of the Department of Justice and of our democracy,” the attorney general said. “Respecting the rule of law means applying the law equally, without fear or favor. Under my watch, precisely what the Department of Justice does. All Americans are entitled to the impartial application of the law, due process and the presumption of innocence.

Nonetheless, the former president said in Monday’s filing that federal investigators “demonstrated a willingness to treat President Trump differently from any other citizen” and claimed his attorneys had tried to send a message to Garland before the statement. from the Attorney General to the media.

According to the complaint, one of Trump’s lawyers spoke to Jay Bratt – head of the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Controls Section – and said: “President Trump wants the prosecutor General know he’s heard people all over the country talking about the raid,” later adding, “Anything I can do to bring the heart down, to bring the pressure down, let us know.”

Monday’s filing offers further alleged details of communications between Trump’s team and the Justice Department leading up to the Aug. 8 search at Mar-a-Lago.

On May 11, a federal grand jury issued a subpoena “requesting a document bearing classification marks,” according to the document, after which Trump says he complied, ordering his staff to search the transferred boxes. in Florida during the presidential transition. On June 3, at the invitation of Trump’s legal team, Bratt and three FBI agents traveled to Mar-a-Lago where they retrieved all relevant documents and examined the room in which they were stored, according to the folder.

A few weeks later, on June 22, investigators subpoenaed security camera footage from Mar-a-Lago.

Federal investigators are now take a close look at the video evidence they obtained, which shows that residents of Mar-a-Lago have access to storage areas where former President Donald Trump’s residence papers were kept – including some classified documents, a US official told CBS News.

The video showing this potential access to a site containing highly sensitive material remains a significant source of concern within the Justice Department, but a source close to Trump’s lawyers said they were aware of the video and warned against it. his reading.

The former president’s filing comes as a magistrate judge in the same federal district weighs whether to unseal a redacted version of the evidence that prompted the Mar-a-Lago search in the first place.

The question is whether the media, and by extension the public, have such a vital interest in viewing the search warrant affidavit – which normally contains specific information about the evidence – that Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart should make the decision. unusual to publish it.

Several news outlets, including CBS News, asked the court to unseal the affidavit, but the Justice Department countered that it was necessary to “protect the integrity of an ongoing investigation into the forces order that involves national security”.

Faced with Justice Department opposition, judge wants to review proposed deletions before making final decision on what can be unsealed

“I cannot say at this point that the partial redactions will be so extensive that they will result in meaningless disclosure,” Reinhart wrote, responding to the Justice Department’s argument that they would redact the record so heavily that ‘it would become worthless to the public. “I might finally come to that conclusion after hearing more from the government.”

Investigative methods and the identities of FBI agents and witnesses are at stake, prosecutors argued, and releasing the file to the public could “chill” the cooperation of other potential witnesses.

“We demand that all items wrongfully taken from my home be IMMEDIATELY returned,” Trump himself said in a statement late Monday.

Andres Triay, Robert Costa and Fin Gomez contributed to this report.

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