(NewsNation) — The Justice Department is now trying to force former President Donald Trump’s legal team to say, once and for all, in writing and in the court record, whether Trump declassified various classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. Or at least whether he is claiming he declassified them as he said on social media.
But remember, this is connected to an initial order by a separate federal Judge, Aileen Cannon, ruling the government could not access any of the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago for its criminal investigation until after what’s called a special master has reviewed all of them.
Cannon did say the government could continue to use the documents to assess the national security implications.
Late last week, the DOJ followed up, arguing that pausing the use of documents in the investigation would cause irreparable harm because it would also effectively, as they said, prevent them from assessing the intelligence damage. Trump’s team responded by encouraging the judge to stick to her guns.
I found it interesting that one of the central points that the Trump team makes is that Trump had the power to declassify the documents so that these are just potentially basic presidential records, just like all others. But they’re not saying he actually did declassify them.
Trump says on social media he declassified them, so why won’t his lawyers simply argue it in court? It might be because there’s a legitimate argument that they don’t have. They may just not have the argument to make that he actually declassified.
Well, the DOJ is now asking the question, very explicitly writing in a new filing, that neither Donald Trump nor his representatives have ever even once in the year-plus since they were negotiating the return of these documents indicated that he has declassified any of the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.
They’re basically trying to force his lawyers to answer the question.
In its filing, the government says they’re only asking that the judge allow them to continue using 100 or so records marked as classified or higher out of the at least 11,000 documents that were seized. These are records the feds say that were specifically sought by a prior grand jury subpoena, whose unauthorized retention may constitute a crime and with markings signifying that their unauthorized disclosure reasonably could be expected to result in damage to national security, including exceptionally grave damage.
They then laid out all the ways top secret documents are typically kept, including approved vaults, alarm systems, etc.
Now, also late Tuesdaay, the magistrate judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed off on the search warrant, agreed to release previously redacted parts of the warrant affidavit.
We already knew that in June, Trump’s team provided a letter signed by his lawyer stating that a diligent search was conducted in the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida. Any and all responsive documents accompanied this certification, which of course, turned out not to be true.
This new information now confirms that June 22, a grand jury subpoena was issued for surveillance footage inside Mar-a-Lago. Then a couple of weeks later, July 6, the Trump Organization handed over that footage on a hard drive.
According to The New York Times, the footage revealed people moving boxes in and out and in some cases appearing to change the containers some documents were held in. The footage also showed other parts of the property.
So that could explain why they were so convinced that they would find more classified documents and evidence of obstruction.
Now, we are expecting a big ruling coming from the judge as to whether the government’s going to be able to use all of those classified documents. We will stay on top of the story with straight, unbiased analysis as we await that ruling.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.