Justice Department alleges ‘obstructive conduct’ occurred at Mar-a-Lago after request for classified documents

Washington — The Ministry of Justice filed a 36-page response late Tuesday night at former President Donald Trump’s request that a federal judge appoint a third party to sift through records seized from his Florida residence. The government alleges “obstructive conduct” occurred at Mar-a-Lago after Trump’s legal team allegedly attempted to conceal or suppress certain records from investigators in the months leading up to the Aug. 8 search.

In the filing, federal prosecutors argued that Trump’s request for a special master to review records seized in the search “fails for multiple unrelated reasons,” and they accused the former president of initiating ” far-reaching baseless accusations” against the US government. in the motion he filed last week.

The appointment of a special master, they said, “is unnecessary and would significantly harm important government interests, including national security interests.”

Among the documents submitted to the court is a redacted FBI photo – taken during the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago, the Justice Department said – of documents recovered from a container in Trump’s office that include covers of classified information with “SECRET//SCI” and “TOP SECRET//SCI” markings. The documents are placed next to a container with a framed cover of Time magazine, among others.

The message “Contains sensitive information compartmentalized up to HCS-P/SI/TK” is visible on the cover pages.

Photo submitted in the Justice Department’s Aug. 30 filing that appears to have been taken during the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago, showing documents strewn on a floor that include covers of classified information with the markings “SECRET//SCI” and “TOP SECRET//SCI”.

U.S. Government Photo

Federal prosecutors told the court that in some cases, “even FBI counterintelligence staff and DOJ attorneys reviewing” records seized in this month’s raid needed clearances additional time before they could review certain documents, suggesting that they found the records extremely sensitive.

In a Publish on his social media platform Truth Social, Trump claimed to have declassified the recordings visible in the FBI photo. However, the Justice Department said Trump’s representatives never “claimed that the former president declassified the documents or claimed executive privilege.”

“Terrible the way the FBI, during the Mar-a-Lago raid, randomly threw documents on the ground (possibly claiming I did it!) and then started to take pictures of them for the public to see,” Trump wrote on Wednesday. “Thought they wanted them to remain secret?” Luckily I was declassified! »

His legal team also has until 8 p.m. Wednesday to submit its own response to the court.

Investigators are investigating Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents, specifically the tapes he took from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago residence when he left office in January 2021, as well as possible obstruction of the investigation.

The Justice Department revealed Friday that earlier this year, investigators found 184 unique documents bearing classification marks — including 67 documents marked confidential, 92 documents marked secret and 25 documents marked top secret — in documents the National Archives and Records Administration had originally collected from Trump in mid-January. The Archives later referred the matter to the Department of Justice for further review.

In their latest filing, federal prosecutors said that during its investigation, the FBI “developed evidence” indicating that in addition to the 15 boxes recovered by the Archives in mid-January, “dozens of additional boxes “probably containing classified information remained at Mar-à-Lago.

To retrieve these additional classified documents, the Justice Department obtained a grand jury subpoena, and on June 3, three FBI agents and a Justice Department attorney traveled to Mar-a-Lago to obtain the documents, according to Tuesday’s filing. Officials received from Trump’s representatives a “simple Redweld envelope double-wrapped in duct tape,” prosecutors said. Trump previously claimed he “voluntarily” accepted the subpoena and then invited investigators to Florida for the June 3 meeting.

According to the Justice Department’s response, an unidentified individual referred to as a “record keeper” of Trump’s post-presidential office provided federal law enforcement with a signed certification letter on June 3 stating that a “research diligent” had been carried out in the boxes brought from the White House to Mar-a-Lago and that “all and all” of the documents responding to the grand jury’s subpoena had been delivered.

Records taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago were stored in one location, a Trump attorney who was present June 3 told federal officials: a storage room on the property, the Justice Department said. in his response. A preliminary examination of the documents conducted by the FBI revealed that the envelope contained “38 unique documents bearing classification marks, including 5 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 16 documents marked as SECRET and 17 documents marked as TOP SECRET”.

“The former president’s lawyer offered no explanation as to why boxes of government documents, including 38 documents with classification marks, remained on the premises nearly five months after the production of the fifteen boxes and nearly a year and a half into the administration,” Justice Department lawyers told the court.

But after the June 3 meeting at Mar-a-Lago, the FBI, according to the response, claims to have discovered “multiple sources of evidence” indicating that more classified documents remained on the property and that a search of the room storage “would not have discovered any classified documents on the premises.” Prosecutors added that “the government has also developed evidence that the government records were likely concealed and removed from storage and that efforts were likely made to impede the government investigation.”

It was in this context that the Justice Department sought the search warrant from a federal justice of the peace earlier this month, prosecutors said. During the Aug. 8 search at Mar-a-Lago, federal agents seized 33 boxes, containers, or “evidence” containing more than 100 classified documents, including information classified at the “highest levels,” according to the folder. Three classified documents were reportedly found in offices in Trump’s “Office 45” and also taken by the FBI.

Among the items seized by federal agents, 13 boxes or containers contained documents with classification markings, some of which contained colored cover sheets indicating their classification status – the photo of which was submitted to the court in a supplemental filing.

“The fact that the FBI, within hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification marks as the ‘diligent search’ that the former president’s lawyer and other representatives had weeks to perform is a reminder of seriously question the statements made in the June 3 certification and cast doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter,” the filing states.

Following the execution of a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort earlier this month, the former president filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to appoint a special master to review the documents and filter out any privileged or unrelated documents that were not within the scope of the court-authorized warrant.

Last week, Judge Aileen Cannon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida asked the Justice Department to explain its views on Trump’s request, setting Tuesday as the deadline for the government’s response. . She also ordered the department to submit a more detailed list detailing all property seized while executing the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, though that document, also due Tuesday, was to be filed under seal.

In a order released on Saturday, before the Justice Department responded to Trump’s request, Cannon indicated his “preliminary intention” to appoint a special master, although his decision is not final. A hearing on Trump’s request is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

On Monday, prosecutors said in a separate court filing that investigators had already completed their search for potentially privileged information and found a “limited” set of documents that could be considered to be protected by solicitor-client privilege.

For his part, the former president has denied any wrongdoing and claimed without evidence that the investigation was a politically motivated attack as he prepares for a possible presidential election in 2024.

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